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Title: The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales

Author: Jean Pierre Camus

Release Date: October, 2005 [EBook #9184]
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[This file was first posted on September 12, 2003]

Edition: 10

Language: English

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Nihil Obstat:

  + F. THOS. BERGH, O.S.B,



die 27th Maii 1910







Preface by the Archbishop of Westminster
Sketch of Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley
The French Publisher to the reader in 1639

Upon perfect virtue
Blessed Francis' estimate of various virtues
Upon the lesser virtues
Upon increase of Faith
Upon temptations against Faith
Upon the same subject
Upon confidence in God
Our misery appeals to God's mercy
Upon self distrust
Upon the justice and mercy of God
On waiting upon God
On the difference between a holy desire of reward and a mercenary spirit
Continuation of the same subject
God should suffice for us all
Charity the short road to perfection
Upon what it is to love God truly
Upon the Love of God in general
All for Love of God
The same subject continued
Upon the Love of God called love of benevolence
Disinterested Love of God
Upon the character of a true Christian
Upon not putting limits to our Love of God
Upon the law and the just man
Upon desires
How Charity excels both Faith and Hope
Some thoughts of Blessed Francis on the Passion
Upon the vanity of heathen philosophy
Upon the pure love of our neighbour
Upon bearing with one another
Upon fraternal correction
Upon finding excuses for the faults of our fellow-men
Upon not judging others
Upon judging ourselves
Upon slander and detraction
Upon hasty judgments
Upon ridiculing one's neighbour
Upon contradicting others
Upon loving our enemies
Upon forgiving our enemies
Upon the virtue of condescension
How he adapted himself to times, places and circumstances
Upon the deference due to inferiors and dependents
On the way to treat servants
Another instance of his gentleness with his servants
His never refusing what was asked of him
Upon almsgiving
His hopefulness in regard, to the conversion of sinners
His solicitude for malefactors condemned to death
Upon the small number of the elect
To love to be hated; and to hate to be loved
Upon obedience
Upon the obedience that may be practised by Superiors
An instance of his obedience
Upon the Love of Holy Poverty
Upon the same subject
Upon poverty of spirit
His love of the poor
Upon the Christian view of Poverty
Upon Prosperity
Upon Chastity and Charity
Upon purity of heart
Upon Chastity and Humility
Upon Modesty
The contempt he felt for his body
Upon his Humility
Upon humbleness in speech only
Upon various degrees of Humility
Upon Humiliation
Humility with regard to perfection
Upon excuses
Upon our good name
Upon despising the esteem of men
Upon the virtues we should practice when calumniated
Upon some spiritual maxims
Upon Patience
How to profit by bearing with insults
Upon bearing with importunities
That he who complains sins
His calmness in tribulations
His test of patience in suffering
Upon long illnesses
His holy indifference in illness
Upon the shape of the Cross
A diamond Cross
Holy Magdalen at the foot of the Cross
Upon the power of gentleness and patience
A rejoinder both striking and instructive
His favourite beatitude
His gravity and affability
How he dealt with a criminal who despaired of salvation
Upon mortification
Upon the same subject
Upon fasting
Doubts solved as to soldiers fasting
The golden mean in dispensations
Upon the words "Eat of anything that is set before you"
Upon the state of perfection
Marks of progress in perfection
Upon the perfection aimed at in Religious Houses
Upon Frugality
His esteem of the virtue of simplicity
His love of exactitude
The test of Religious Vocation
Upon following the common life
Upon Vocations
Upon Prudence and Simplicity
The same subject continued
Upon mental prayer
Upon Aspirations
Upon interior recollection and ejaculatory prayers
Upon doing and enduring
Upon Mortification and Prayer
Upon the Presence of God
His unity of spirit with God
His gratitude to God for spiritual consolations
Upon the shedding of tears
Upon joy and sadness
On the degrees of true devotion
The test of true devotion
What it means to be a servant of God
That devotion does not always spring from Charity
Upon perfect contentment in the privation of all content
Upon the Will of God
His resignation to the Will of God
That we must always submit ourselves to God's holy Will
His sublime thoughts on holy indifference
Nothing save sin happens to us but by the Will of God
Upon the same subject
Upon abandoning ourselves to God
Upon interior desolation
Upon the presence in our souls of the Grace of God
Upon our wish to save our soul
Upon good natural inclinations
How to speak of God
Upon eccentricities in devotion
Upon Confraternities
Upon intercourse with the world
Against over-eagerness
Upon the same subject
Upon liberty of spirit
Upon nature and grace
Upon exaggerated introspection
Upon interior reformation
His vision of the Most Holy Trinity
His devotion to our Blessed Lady
His devotion to the Holy Winding Sheet of Turin
Upon merit
Upon good will and good desires
Against the making of rash vows
Upon the pro-passions of Our Lord
His victory over the passions of love and anger
Upon our passions and emotions
How he came to write his Philothea
Upon the example of the Saints
Upon the love of God's word
His love of retirement
How he sanctified his recreations
What he drew from lines of poetry
Upon being content with our condition in life
Upon self-sufficiency and contentedness
His reverence for the sick
Upon the care of the sick
Upon speaking well of the dead
Upon Death
Upon wishing to die
Upon the desire of Heaven
What it is to die in God
Upon length of life
Upon Purgatory
Upon Penance
Upon penitent confusion
Upon interior peace amidst anxieties
Upon discouragement
Upon rising after a fall
Upon kindliness towards ourselves
Upon imperfections
The just man falls seven times in the day
Upon the purgative way
Upon venial sin
Upon complicity in the sins of another
Upon equivocating
Upon solitude
Upon vanity
Upon the knowledge which puffs up
Upon scruples
Upon temptations
Upon the same subject
Thoughts on the Incarnation
Upon Confession and Communion
Upon Confession
Upon a change of confessor
Upon different methods of direction
Advice upon having a Director
Upon true and mistaken zeal
Upon the institution of the Visitation Order
His defence of his new Congregation of the Visitation
Upon the odour of sanctity
He rebukes Pharisaism
Upon religious Superiors
Upon unlearned Superiors
Upon the founding of Convents
Upon receiving the infirm into Communities
Upon self pity
Upon the government of Nuns by religious men
That we must not be wedded to our own plans
His views regarding Ecclesiastical dignities
His promotion to the Bishopric of Geneva and his refusal of the
    Archbishopric of Paris
A Bishop's care for his flock
Upon the first duty of Bishops
Upon the pastoral charge
Upon the care of souls
Upon learning and piety
Advice to Bishop Camus as to resigning his See
The joyous spirit of Blessed Francis
Upon daily Mass. His advice to a young Priest
A Priest saying Mass should be considerate of others
Blessed Francis encourages the Bishop of Belley
Upon a compassionate mind
Upon doing one's duty without respect of persons
The honour due to virtue
Upon memory and judgment
A Priest should not aim at imitating in his sermons some particular
Upon short sermons
Upon preaching and preachers
Blessed Francis and the Bishop of Belley's sermon
Upon controversy
The same subject continued
Upon reason and reasoning
Upon quoting Holy Scripture
Upon political diplomacy
Upon ambition
Upon courts and courtiers
Upon the Carnival
An instance of his compassion for animals
Upon hunting
Upon the fear of ghosts
His portrait
Upon his true charity


The Spirit of a Saint we may, perhaps, regard as the underlying
characteristic which pervades all his thoughts, words, and acts. It is the
note which sounds throughout the constant persevering harmony which makes
the holiness of his life. Circumstances change. He grows from childhood to
boyhood; from youth to manhood. His time of preparation is unnoticed by the
world until the moment comes when he is called to a public activity which
arrests attention. And essentially he remains the same. In private as in
public, in intimate conversation as in writings or discourses, in the
direction of individual consciences as in the conduct of matters of wide
importance, there is a characteristic note which identifies him, and marks
him off apart even from other heroes of sanctity.

We owe to a keen and close observer a knowledge of the spirit of St.
Francis de Sales for which we cannot be too grateful. Let it be granted
that Mgr. Camus had a very prolific imagination; that he had an unconscious
tendency to embroider facts; that he read a meaning into words which their
speaker had no thought of imparting to them. When all such allowances have
been made, we must still admit that he has given to us a picture of the
Saint which we should be loath to lose; and that his description of what
the Saint habitually thought and felt has made Saint Francis de Sales a
close personal friend to many to whom otherwise he would have remained a
mere chance acquaintance.

The Bishop of Belley, while a devoted admirer, was at the same time a
critical observer of his saintly friend. He wanted to know the reasons of
what he saw, he did not always approve, and he was sufficiently indiscreet
to put questions which, probably, no one else would have dared to frame.
And thus we know more about St. Francis than about any other Saint, and we
owe real gratitude to his very candid, talkative, and out-spoken episcopal

Many years ago a brief abridgment of the "Spirit of St. Francis de Sales"
was published in English. It served its purpose, but left unsatisfied
the desire of his clients for a fuller work. To-day the Sisters of
the Visitation, now established at Harrow-on-the-Hill, give abundant
satisfaction to this long-felt desire. Inspired by the purpose of the late
Dom Benedict Mackey, O.S.B., which his premature death prevented him from
accomplishing, and guided by the advice which he left in writing, these
Daughters of St. Francis of Sales, on the occasion of their Tercentenary,
give to the English-speaking world a work which, in its wise curtailment
and still full detail, may be called the quintessence of the Spirit of
their Master, the Founder of their Institute. We thank them for their
labour; and we beg God's blessing upon this book, that it may be the means
of showing to many souls that safe and easy way of sanctification and
salvation, which it was the special mission of the saintly Bishop of Geneva
to make known to the world.


May 18th, 1910.




Jean Pierre Camus came of an illustrious, and much respected family of
Auxonne in Burgundy, in which province it possessed the seigneuries of
_Saint Bonnet_ and _Pont-carre_.

He was born in Paris, November 3rd, 1584.

His grandfather was for some years Administrator of the Finances under King
Henri III. Though he had had the management of the public funds during
a period when fraud and dishonesty were as easy as they were common, he
retired from office without having added a single penny to his patrimony.
On one occasion having received from Henri III. the gift of a sum of 50,000
crowns, which had been left by a Jew who had died intestate, and without
children, this upright administrator sent for three merchants who had lost
all their property in a fire, and distributed it among them.

The father of our Prelate, inheriting this integrity, left an honourable
name, but few worldly goods to his children.

Faithful, and devoted to the interests of his king, Henri IV., he gave part
of his fortune to the support of the good cause, the triumph of which he
had the happiness of witnessing. He died in 1619.

The mantle of paternal loyalty and patriotism undoubtedly descended upon
the young J. P. Camus, for second only to his love for God, and His Church,
was his devotion to France, and its king.

On his mother's side, as well as on his father's, he was well connected.
Her family had given to France chancellors, secretaries of state, and other
distinguished personages, but noble as were the races from which he sprang
their chief distinction is derived from the subject of this sketch.

"This one branch," says his panegyrist, "bore more blossoms and more fruit
than all the others together. In John Peter the gentle rivulet of the
Camus' became a mighty stream, yet one whose course was peaceful, and
which loved to flow underground, as do certain rivers which seem to lose
themselves in the earth, and only emerge to precipitate themselves into the
waters of the ocean."

Books and objects of piety were the toys of his childhood, and his youth
was passed in solitude, and in the practices of the ascetic life. His
physical strength as it increased with his years, seemed only to serve to
assist him in curbing and restraining a somewhat fiery temperament. His
wish, which at one time was very strong, to become a Carthusian, was not
indeed fulfilled, it being evident from the many impediments put in its
way, that it was not a call from God.

Nevertheless, this desire of self-sacrifice in a cloistered life was only
thwarted in order that he might sacrifice himself in another way, namely,
by becoming a Bishop, which state, if its functions are rightly discharged,
assuredly demands greater self-immolation than does that of a monk, and is
indeed a martyrdom that ceases only with life itself.

If he did not submit himself to the Rule of the Carthusians by entering
their Order, he nevertheless adopted all its severity, and to the very end
of his life kept his body in the most stern and rigorous subjection.

This, and his early inclination towards the religious life, will not a
little astonish his detractors, if any such still exist, for it is surely
a convincing proof that he was not the radical enemy of monasticism they
pretend. In his studies he displayed great brilliancy, being especially
distinguished in theology and canon law, to the study of which he
consecrated four years of his life.

After he had become a Priest his learning, piety, and eloquence not only
established his reputation as a preacher in the pulpits of Paris, but soon
even crossed the threshold of the Louvre and reached the ears of Henry IV.
That monarch, moved by the hope of the great services which a prelate might
render to the Church even more than by the affection which he bore to the
Camus family, decided to propose him for a Bishopric, although he was but
twenty-five, and had not therefore reached the canonical age for that

The young Priest was far too humble and also too deeply imbued with a sense
of the awful responsibility of the office of a Bishop to expect, or to
desire to be raised to it. When, however, Pope Paul V. gave the necessary
dispensation, M. Camus submitted to the will both of the Pontiff and of the
King, and was consecrated Bishop of Belley by St. Francis de Sales, August
30, 1609.

The fact that the two dioceses of Geneva and Belley touched one another
contributed to further that close intimacy which was always maintained
between the Bishops, the younger consulting the elder on all possible
occasions, and in all imaginable difficulties.

Bishop Camus had already referred his scruples regarding his youth at the
time of his consecration to his holy director. The latter had, however,
reminded him of the many reasons there were to justify his submission,
viz., the needs of the diocese, the testimony to his fitness given by so
many persons of distinction and piety, the judgment of Henry the Great, in
fine the command of His Holiness. In consecrating Mgr. Camus, St. Francis
de Sales seems to have transmitted to the new Prelate some of the treasures
of his own holy soul. Camus was the only Bishop whom he ever consecrated,
and doubtless this fact increased the tender affection which Francis bore
him. John Peter was, what he loved to call himself, and what St. Francis
loved to call him, the latter's only son. There was between the two holy
Prelates a community of intelligence and of life. "Camus," says Godeau, the
preacher of his funeral discourse, "ever sat at the feet of St. Francis de
Sales, whom he called his Gamaliel, there to learn from him the law of God:
full as he himself was of the knowledge of Divine things."

We must bear this in mind if we wish to know what Camus really was, and
to appreciate him properly. He was by nature ardent, impetuous, and
imaginative, eager for truth and goodness, secretly devoted to the austere
practices of St. Charles Borromeo, but above all fervently desirous to
imitate his model, his beloved spiritual Father, and therefore anxious to
subdue, and to temper all that was too impetuous, excitable, and hard in
himself, by striving after the incomparable sweetness and tenderness which
were the distinguishing characteristics of St. Francis de Sales.

Mgr. Camus was endowed with a most marvellous memory, which was indeed
invaluable to him in the great work to which both Bishops devoted
themselves, that of bringing back into the bosom of the Church those who
had become strangers, and even enemies to her.

His chief defect was that he was over hasty in judging, and of this he
was himself perfectly well aware. He tells us in the "Esprit" that on one
occasion when he was bewailing his deficiency to Francis, the good Prelate
only smiled, and told him to take courage, for that as time went on it
would bring him plenty of judgment, that being one of the fruits of
experience, and of advancing years.

Whenever Mgr. Camus visited the Bishop of Geneva, which he did each year
in order to make a retreat of several days under the direction of his
spiritual Father, he was treated with the greatest honour by him.

St. Francis de Sales gave up his own room to his guest, and made him
preach, and discharge other episcopal functions, so as to exercise him in
his own presence in these duties of his sublime ministry.

This was the school in which Camus learnt to control and master himself, to
curb his natural impetuosity, and to subjugate his own will, and thus to
acquire one, in our opinion, of the most certain marks of saintliness.

The Bishop of Geneva was not contented with receiving his only son at
Annecy. He often went over to Belley, and spent several days there in
his company. These visits were to both Prelates a time of the greatest
consolation. Then they spoke, as it were, heart to heart, of all that they
valued most. Then they encouraged one another to bear the burden of the
episcopate. Then they consoled each other in the troubles which they met
with in their sacred ministry.

It never cost the younger Bishop anything to yield obedience to the elder,
and no matter how great, or how trifling was the occasion which called for
the exercise of that virtue, there was never a moment's hesitation on the
part of the Bishop of Belley.

The latter, indeed, considered the virtue of obedience as the one most
calculated to ensure rapid advance in the spiritual life. He tells us that
one day at table someone having boasted that he could make an egg stand
upright on a plate, a thing which those present, forgetting Christopher
Columbus, insisted was impossible, the Saint, as Columbus had done, quietly
taking one up chipped it a little at one end, and so made it stand. The
company all cried out that there was nothing very great in that trick.
"No," repeated the Saint, "but all the same you did not know it."

We may say the same, adds Camus, of obedience: it is the true secret of
perfection, and yet few people know it to be so.

From what we have already seen of the character of John Peter Camus, we
may imagine that gentleness was the most difficult for him to copy of the
virtues of St. Francis de Sales; yet steel, though much stronger than iron,
is at the same time far more readily tempered.

Thus, in his dealings with his neighbour he behaved exactly like his model,
so much so, that for anyone who wanted to gain his favour the best plan was
to offend him or do him some injury.

I have spoken of his love of mortification, and a short extract from the
funeral discourse pronounced over his remains will show to what extent he
practised it.

Godeau says: "Our virtuous Bishop up to the very last years of his life,
slept either on a bed of vine shoots, or on boards, or on straw. This
custom he only abandoned in obedience to his director, and in doing so I
consider that he accomplished what was far more difficult and painful than
the mortifications which he had planned for himself, since the sacrifice of
our own will in these matters is incomparably more disagreeable to us than
the practising of them."

This austerity in respect to sleep, of which, indeed, he required more than
others on account of his excitable temperament, did not suffice to satisfy
his love for penance, without which, he said, the leading of a Christian
and much more of an episcopal life was impossible. To bring his body into
subjection he constantly made use of hair-shirts, iron belts, vigils,
fasting, and the discipline, and it was not until his last illness that
he gave up those practices of austerity. He concealed them, however,
as carefully as though he had been ashamed of them, knowing well that
such sacrifices if not offered in secret, partake more of the spirit of
Pharisaism than of the gospel. This humility, notwithstanding, he was
unable to guard against the pardonable curiosity of his servants. One of
them, quite a young man, who was his personal attendant during the first
years of his residence at Belley, observing that he wore round his neck the
key of a large cupboard, and being very anxious to know what it contained,
managed in some way to possess himself of this key for a few moments, when
his master had laid it aside, and was not in the room.

Unlocking the cupboard he found it full of the vine shoots on which he was
accustomed to sleep. The bed which everyone saw in his apartment was the
Bishop's; the one which he hid away was the penitent's. The one was for
appearance, the other for piety. He used to put into disorder the coverings
of the bed, so as to give the impression of having slept in it, while he
really slept, or at least took such repose as was necessary to keep him
alive, on the penitential laths he had hidden.

Having discovered that through his valet the rumour of his austerity had
got abroad, he dismissed the young man from his service, giving him a
handsome present, and warning him to be less curious in future. But for
his failing, however, we should have lost a great example of the Bishop's
mortification and humility.

The latter virtue John Peter Camus cultivated most carefully, and how well
he succeeded in this matter is proved by the composure, and even gaiety and
joyousness, with which he met the raillery heaped upon his sermons, and

Camus, like the holy Bishop of Geneva, had throughout his life a special
devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and never failed in his daily recital of
the Rosary. Every evening it was his habit to read a portion of either _The
Spiritual Combat_, or the _Imitation of Jesus Christ_; two books which he
recommended to his penitents as next in usefulness to the gospels.

Following him in his Episcopal career we find that as the years rolled
on his reputation passed beyond the confines of France, and reached the

Pope Paul V., who knew him intimately, held him in high esteem, and all the
Cardinals honoured him with their friendship.

Had it not been for his own firm resistance to every proposal made to him
to quit his poor diocese of Belley, Mgr. Camus would assuredly have been
transferred to some much more important See.

And here we may again quote the words of his panegyrist, to indicate the
fruits produced by his zeal in the little corner of the vineyard of the
Divine Master, which had been confided to his skilful hands.

Godeau says, "The interior sanctity which he strove to acquire for himself
by prayer, by reading holy books, by the mortification of his senses,
by the putting aside of all secular affairs when engaged in prayer, by
humility, patience, and charity, were the inexhaustible source whence
flowed all his external works, and whence they derived all their purity and

As regarded the poor and needy in his diocese, Mgr. Camus was no less
generous in ministering to their temporal than to their spiritual wants.
He looked upon himself as simply a steward of the goods of the Church. He,
indeed, drew the revenues of his diocese, but only as rivers draw their
waters from the sea, to pay them back again to it with usury.

More than once in years of famine he gave all his corn to the poor, not as
Joseph did in Egypt by depriving them of their liberty, but by depriving
himself of what was necessary for his support, and treating himself no
better than the rest of the poor.

One day he was told that the dearness of wine was the cause of great
distress among working people. He immediately gave orders that his own wine
should be sold, but after a most curious and unusual fashion. He would not
have any fixed price set upon it, but only desired that an open bag should
be held, at the door of the cellar so that purchasers might throw in what
they pleased. You may be sure that the bag was not very full and that the
buyers availed themselves to the utmost of his liberality.

What, however, do you think he did with the small amount of money which he
found in the bag? Even that he forthwith distributed among the poor! Surely
if anything can approach the miraculous transformation of water into wine
it is Bishop Camus' mode of selling it!

After having established in his diocese that order and peace which are
the fruits of the knowledge and observance of the duties of religion, and
having formed a body of clergy remarkable for their piety and learning,
Mgr. Camus thought he ought to advance even a step further.

He felt that it was his duty to have in his Episcopal city a community of
Religious men who by their example should assist both clergy and laity in
their spiritual life. He did this by building, at his own expense, in 1620,
a Capuchin Monastery.

For a long time he supplied these Friars with all that they needed, and
finally gave them his own library, which was both choice and extensive.

He was equally cordial in his relationship with other Orders, welcoming
them gladly to his own house, and often making retreats in their

Camus was too intimately connected with Francis de Sales not to have with
him a community of spirit.

Knowing how useful the newly-formed Order of the Visitation would be to the
Church, he also founded at Belley, in 1662, a Convent, to which he invited
some nuns of the New Congregation. This Institution of the holy Bishop
of Geneva was vigorously attacked from its very beginning. It was called
in derision, _the Confraternity of the Descent from the Cross_, because
its pious founder had excluded from this order corporal austerities, and
had adapted all his rules to the reforming of the interior. The Bishop
of Belley declared himself champion of this new Institution. Indeed, his
ardent soul was always on fire to proclaim and to maintain the glory of the
Church. At whatever point She was attacked or threatened there Camus was to
be found armed _cap-a-pie_ to defend her.

As for his own temporal interests, they were to him matters of absolute
indifference when weighed in the balance of that beloved Church. His own
words, however, speak best on this subject.

On one occasion, when a Minister of State wrote to ask him something
contrary to those interests, backing up his request with the most liberal
promises, the Bishop of Belley, after courteously excusing himself from
complying with the request, wound up his answer to the statesman with these
remarkable words: _This is all that can be said to you by a Bishop who, as
regards the past, is under no obligation to anyone; as regards the present
without interest; and as regards the future has no pretentions whatever._

We have said that the Bishop of Belley was indefatigable in labouring for
the sanctification of his people, but this did not in any way prevent him
from bestowing due care upon the interests of his own soul.

With this object in view he considered that after long years of toil for
his flock he ought to retire from the world, so as to have more time to
devote to himself. To live in solitude had been the desire of his youth, as
we know it was ever his desire through all the period of his Episcopate;
but his spiritual guide, the holy Bishop of Geneva, always succeeded in
dissuading him from laying down the pastoral staff to take refuge in the

However, after the death of his illustrious friend and counsellor, this
desire returned to Camus with redoubled force. For seven years, out of
respect for the advice of his dear dead friend, he abstained from carrying
out his purpose, and during that time of waiting, relaxing nothing in the
ardour of his love for his people and his zeal for the Church, he devoted
himself to the work of repairing and restoring his Cathedral, which was
accomplished in the year 1627.

When in 1837 this ancient edifice was pulled down in order to be rebuilt,
an inscription was discovered stating this fact, which is not otherwise
mentioned in any extant writings, probably because those in which it was
recorded were among the rich archives of the Chapter destroyed by the fury
of the vandals of 1793.

At last, in 1628, Camus finally decided to give up his Episcopal charge to
one who was indeed worthy of such a dignity.

This was Jean de Passelaigne, Abbot of Notre Dame de Hambic, Prior of St.
Victor of Nevers, and of La Charite-sur-Loire, Vicar-General of the Order
of Cluny.

Then, having obtained the King's consent, Camus retired from the diocese
of Belley, which he had ruled so happily and so well for twenty years, to
the Cistercian Abbey of Annay, there to exercise in the calm of solitude
all those virtues to the practice of which he said the stir and bustle
inseparable from the episcopal functions had not allowed him to devote
himself. This he did, it would seem, towards the end of 1628, or the
beginning of 1629.

The Abbey of Annay, which the King gave to him on receiving his resignation
of the See of Belley, was situated in Normandy, near Caen. There Camus
dwelt for some time, not, however, leading an idle life, for we find that
a great many of his works were printed at Caen. He also succeeded in
introducing into this Religious House, and into the neighbouring one of
Ardaine, that reform which it was the desire of his heart to bring back to
all the Monasteries of France. It was while in Normandy that he made the
acquaintance of Pere Eudes, and between these two holy Priests the closest
friendship sprang up, founded on a mutual zeal for the salvation of souls.

The Bishop of Belley was not long allowed to enjoy his quiet retreat at
Annay. Francois de Harlay, Archbishop of Rouen, being unable at that time,
owing to ill health, to exercise his duties as a Bishop, felt convinced
that Providence had sent Mgr. Camus into his diocese on purpose that he
might share his labours. His earnest entreaties prevailed upon the good
Bishop to emerge from his retreat and help to bear the burden which pressed
so heavily upon a sick and failing Prelate.

At Belley he had been accountable to God alone for the discharge of those
duties which he had for a time laid aside; now at the call of charity
he did not hesitate to take up the burden again to ease another. He was
appointed Vicar-General to the Archbishop of Rouen, renouncing, like St.
Paul, his liberty in order to become the servant of all men, and thus gain
more souls to Jesus Christ.

Although in this new sphere Camus laboured with the utmost devotion and
untiring energy, living a life of ascetic severity, fasting, sleeping on
straw, or spending whole nights in prayer, while his days were given to
preaching, confirming, hearing confessions, visiting the sick, consoling
the afflicted, advising, exhorting, patiently listening to the crowds who
flocked to consult him, yet he still felt certain that the voice of God
called him to solitude and to a perpetual retreat.

Desiring to spend the rest of his days among the poor whom he loved
so well, he came to Paris, and took up his abode in the Hospital for
Incurables, situated in the Rue de Sevres. He reserved for himself out of
his patrimony and benefices only 500 livres, which he paid to the hospital
for his board and lodging, distributing the remainder among the needy.

In this hospital he passed his time in ministering to the sick, dressing
their wounds, consoling, and instructing them, and performing for them all
the functions of an ordinary Chaplain.

Even if he went out to visit friends in the vicinity of Paris, he never
returned later than five o'clock in the evening. Occasionally he preached
in the chapel of the Duke of Orleans before His Royal Highness, and at
such times denounced vehemently the luxury and indolence of Princes and

There was at this time a diocese in a no less pitiable condition than was
Belley when Mgr. Camus was, at the King's desire, placed in charge of
it. This diocese was that of Arras, and on the 28th of May, 1650, he was
appointed by Louis XIV., acting under the advice of the Queen-Regent, to
administer all the affairs of the diocese until such time as a new Bishop
should be nominated to the vacant See by His Majesty and our Holy Father
the Pope. Into this laborious task of sowing, ploughing, cultivating a vast
weed-grown, and unpromising field, Camus threw himself with all his old
ardour and energy. He did so much in a very short time that his name will
long be remembered among the descendants of those from whom the troubles
of the times snatched him so suddenly, but not before he had bound them to
France while leading them to God by bands of love stronger than citadels or

Political disturbances and the calamities of war having prevented this
indefatigable servant of God from carrying on his work at Arras, he
withdrew again in the following year to the Hospital of the Incurables at
Paris, there to await better times, and also doubtless the expected Bull
from the Sovereign Pontiff. However, the great Rewarder called Camus to
Himself before the Pope had sanctioned his appointment to the Bishopric of

But ere we close this slight sketch of the life of the good Bishop, and
speak of its last scenes, we must say a word about the gigantic literary
labours which occupied him more or less from the time of his retirement to
the Abbey of Annay, in 1628, till his death, in 1652.

It was his great love for the Church which made him take pen in hand.
Varied as were the subjects on which he wrote, his writings, whether
controversial, dogmatic, devotional or even light and entertaining, had but
one single aim and end--the instruction of mankind and the glorification of

If we bear this in mind we shall be ready to forgive the bitterness and
harshness which we may admit characterised many of his writings. To reform
the Monasteries of France, and to deal a death blow to the abuses which had
crept into some of them, was the passionate desire of his heart.

This, and not a personal hatred of monks, as his enemies have averred, was
the moving spring of his actions in this crusade of the pen. At the same
time we do not deny that his natural impetuosity and keen sense of humour
made him too often, in accordance with the bad taste of the day, present
the abuses which he wished to reform, in so ridiculous and contemptible a
light, as to provoke and irritate his enemies, perhaps unnecessarily.

Yet, if in this he showed the lack of judgment which he had years before
lamented in himself, can anyone who knows what those times were, and who is
as jealous for the honour of God as he was, blame him? There was another
evil of the day which the good Bishop witnessed with grief and indignation,
and set himself zealously to reform. This was the publishing of romances,
or novels, which, as then written, could only poison the minds of their
readers, inflame their passions, and weaken their sense of right and wrong.
He pondered the matter, and having made up his mind that it would be
absolutely useless to endeavour to hinder their being read, as this would
only increase the obstinacy and perversity of those who took pleasure in
them, he decided on adopting another method altogether, as he himself said,
he "tried to make these poor diseased folk, with their depraved taste and
morbid cravings, swallow his medicine under the disguise of sweetmeats."

That is to say, he himself began to write novels and romances for them;
romances which, indeed, depicted the profligacy of the age, but in such
odious colours as to inspire aversion and contempt. Vice, if described, was
held up to ridicule and loathing. The interest of the story was so well
kept up as to carry the reader on to the end, and that end often showed
the hero or heroine so entirely disabused of the world's enchantment as to
retire voluntarily into convents, in order, by an absolute devotion of the
heart to God, to repair the injury done to Him, by giving to the creature
the love due to Him alone.

These books passed from hand to hand in the gay world, were read, were
enjoyed, and the fruit gathered from them by the reader was the conviction
that God being Himself the Sovereign God, all other love but that of which
He is the object and the end, is as contrary to the happiness of man as it
is opposed to all the rules of justice.

Let us hear what Camus himself says as to his motive and conduct in the
matter of novel writing.[1]

"The enterprise on which I have embarked of wrestling with, or rather
contending against those idle or dangerous books, which cloak themselves
under the title of novels, would surely demand the hands of Briareus to
wield as many pens, and the strength of Hercules to support such a burden!
But what cannot courage, zeal, charity, and confidence in God accomplish?"

He goes on to say that though he sees all the difficulties ahead, his
courage will not fail, for he holds his commission from a Saint, the holy
Bishop of Geneva, in whose intercessions, and in the assistance of the God
of Saints, he trusts, and is confident of victory.

He tells us in several of his works, and especially in his "Unknown
Traveller," that it was St. Francis de Sales who first advised him to use
his pen in this manner, and that for twenty-five years the Saint had been
cogitating and developing this design in his brain.

In the same little pamphlet Camus points out the methods he followed as a
novel writer.

"It consists," he says, "in saying only good things, dealing only with good
subjects, the single aim of which is to deter from vice, and to lead on to

He was an extraordinarily prolific and rapid writer, scarcely ever
correcting or polishing up anything that he had put on paper. This was a
defect, but it was the natural outcome of his temperament, which was a
curious combination of lightness and solidity, gaiety and severity.

Few people really understood him. He was often taken for a mere man of the
world, when in truth he was one of the stoutest champions of the Church,
and in his inner life, grave and ascetic, macerating his flesh like a
monk of the desert. He wrote in all about 200 volumes, 50 of these being

In the latter, which drew down upon him such storms of bitter invective,
owing to his freedom of language in treating of the vices against which
he was warning his readers, we do not pretend to admire his work, but
must remind readers that his style was that of the age in which he lived,
and that Camus was essentially a Parisian. We have said that he wrote at
least fifty novels; we may add that each was cleverer than that which had
preceded it. Forgotten now, they were at the time of their appearance
eagerly devoured, and it is morally impossible but that some good should
have resulted from their production.

And now old age came upon the busy writer--old age, but not the feebleness
of old age, nor its privileged inaction. As he advanced in years he seemed
to increase in zeal and diligence, and it was not till suddenly stricken
down by a mortal malady that his labours ceased.

Then on his death-bed in a quiet corner of the Hospital for Incurables in
humility, patience, and a marvellous silence, only opening his lips to
speak at the desire of his confessor, calm and peaceful, his eyes fixed
upon the crucifix which he held in his hands, Jean Pierre Camus gave up his
soul to God. This was on the 25th of April, 1652. He was 67 years old.

He had in his will forbidden any pomp or display at his funeral, and his
wishes were strictly obeyed.

Some time after his death a stone was placed by the Administrators of
the Hospital over the tomb of the good Bishop, who had been so great a
benefactor to that Institution, and who rests beneath the nave of its
Church in the Rue de Sevres.

When he felt the first approach of illness, about six weeks before his
death, he made his will, in which he left the greater part of his money to
the Hospital, founding in it four beds for the Incurables of Belley.

And now our work is done.... The object has been to make John Peter Camus
known as he really was, and to cleanse his memory from the stains cast upon
it by the jarring passions of his contemporaries.

If we have succeeded in this the reader will recognise in him a pious
Bishop, armed with the scourge of penance, an indefatigable writer in the
defence of good morals, of religion, and of the Church--a reformer, and not
an enemy of the Monastic Orders; finally a Prelate, who laboured all his
life to copy the Holy Bishop of Geneva, whom he ever regarded as his
father, his guide, and his oracle.

One word more. Those pious persons who wish to know better this true
disciple of the Bishop of Geneva have nothing to do but to read the _Spirit
of Saint Francis de Sales_. There they will see the Bishop of Belley as
he really was. There they can admire his ardent piety, the candour of his
soul, the fervour of his faith and charity; in a word, all that rich store
of virtues which he acquired in the school of that great master of the
spiritual life who was for fourteen years his Director.

[Footnote 1: In the preface of his book, entitled "Strange Occurrences."]


Since the holy death of Blessed Francis de Sales, Prince and Bishop of
Geneva, which took place on December 28th, the Feast of the Holy Innocents,
in the year 1622, many writers have taken up the pen to give the public the
knowledge of the pious life and virtuous conversation of that holy Prelate,
whom some have very fitly called the St. Charles of France.

The writer, however, with whom we are most concerned is Monseigneur Jean
Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley, whose work we are now introducing to our
readers. After the death of Blessed Francis this faithful friend and
devoted disciple was entreated, urged, conjured, in season and out of
season, by an infinity of persons, to employ the literary faculty given to
him by God in communicating to the world the many rare things which he had
had the opportunity of observing in the life and conversation of Blessed
Francis, under whose direction and discipline he had been for fourteen

M. Camus constantly excused himself under the plea that many had already
taken the work in hand, and that he did not care to put his sickle into
another man's crop, nor to make books by simply transcribing those of
others, as is done by many writers of our day. At last, however, he allowed
himself to be persuaded by some members of the Order of the Visitation,
founded by the holy Bishop, to write the life, or, more properly speaking,
to delineate the spirit of his beloved Master.

Having promised to do this, he considered that he had, at least partially,
fulfilled his promise by publishing some pious Treatises conformable to the
spirit of the holy Prelate. It was, however, afterwards thought better to
gather up, and, as it were, glean from M. Camus' own sermons, exhortations,
conferences, conversations, books, and letters, that Spirit of Blessed
Francis which he had imbibed, in common with all the holy Bishop's
disciples and spiritual children.

To make this collection was not difficult, because there was scarcely
a sermon, conference, or spiritual lesson given by him in which he did
not say something about the Saint, so deeply imbued was he with his

One of the most intimate and familiar friends of the Bishop of Belley,
having given his attention to the matter, now lays before you as the
result, this book to which he has given the title: _The Spirit of Blessed
Francis de Sales, represented in his most remarkable words and actions._
This holy Bishop was mighty in works and in words; he was not one of those
who say much that is good but who do not practise it. To say and to do was
with him the same thing, or rather, his doing surpassed his saying....

In this collection offered to you, there is but little formal arrangement,
the component parts were gathered up as they fell from the lips or the pen
of Monseigneur Camus. It is a piece of mosaic work, a bouquet of various
flowers, a salad of divers herbs, a banquet of many dishes, an orchard of
different fruits, where each one can take what best suits his taste.

_Note.--In this translation an endeavour has been made to group together
the sections treating of the same subject. These are scattered, without
order, through the three volumes of the French edition._



Blessed Francis de Sales thought very little of any virtue unless it was
animated by charity; following in this the teaching of St. Paul, who
declares that without charity the greatest virtues are as nothing. Thus,
even the faith which works miracles, the almsgiving which leads a man to
sell all his goods to feed the poor, the spirit of martyrdom which impels
him to give his body to be burned, all, if without charity, are nothing.[1]

That you may clearly understand the distinction which he drew between the
natural excellence of certain virtues, and the supernatural perfection
which they acquire by the infusion of charity, I will give you his exact
words on the subject, as they are to be found in his Treatise on the Love
of God.

He says: "The light of the sun falls equally on the violet and the rose,
yet will never render the former as fair as the latter, or make a daisy as
lovely as a lily. If, however, the sun should shine very clearly upon the
violet, and very mistily and faintly upon the rose, then without doubt
it would make the violet more fair to see than the rose. So, Theotimus,
if with equal charity one should suffer death by martyrdom, and another
suffer only hunger by fasting, who does not see that the value of this
fasting will not, on that account, be equal to that of martyrdom? No, for
who would dare to affirm that martrydom is not more excellent in itself
than fasting.... Still, it is true that if love be ardent, powerful,
and excellent, in a heart, it will also more enrich and perfect all the
virtuous works which may proceed from it. One may suffer death and fire for
God, without charity, as St. Paul supposes[2], and as I explain elsewhere.
Still more then may one suffer them with little charity. Now, I say,
Theotimus, that it may come to pass that a very small virtue may be of
greater value in a soul where divine love fervently reigns, than martyrdom
itself in a soul where love is languishing, feeble, and dull. Thus, the
least virtues of our Blessed Lady of St. John, and of other great Saints,
were of more worth before God than the most exalted perfections of the rest
of His servants."[3]

[Footnote 1: 1 Cor. xiii. 1-3.]
[Footnote 2: 1 Cor. xiii. 3.]
[Footnote 3: Bk. xi. chap. v.]


1 deg.. He preferred those virtues the practice of which is comparatively
frequent, common, and ordinary, to others which we may be called upon to
exercise on rare occasions.

2 deg.. He considered, as we have seen, that the degree of the supernatural
in any virtue could not be decided by the greatness or smallness of the
external act, since an act in itself altogether trivial, may be performed
with much grace and charity, while a very brilliant and dazzling good work
may be animated by but a very feeble spark of love of God, the intensity of
which is, after all, the only rule by which to ascertain its true value in
His sight.

3 deg.. The more universal a virtue, the more, he said, it is to be preferred
before all others, charity only excepted. For instance, he valued prayer as
the light which illumines all other virtues; devotion, as consecrating
all our actions to God; humility, which makes us set but little value on
ourselves and on our doings; meekness, which yields to all; patience, which
includes everything besides. He valued these, I say, more than magnanimity,
or liberality, because such virtues can be more rarely practised and they
affect fewer subjects.

4 deg.. He was always on his guard against showy virtues, which of their very
nature encourage vainglory, the bane of all good works.

5 deg.. He blamed those who measure virtues by the standard set up by the
world, who prefer temporal to spiritual alms; haircloth, fasting, and
corporal austerities to sweetness, modesty, and the mortification of the
heart; virtues by far the more excellent.

6 deg.. He greatly condemned those who select the virtues most agreeable to
their taste, and practise these alone, quite regardless of those which are
specially adapted to their state of life. These people, indeed, serve God,
but after a way of their own, not according to His will: a by no means
uncommon mistake, which leads many, otherwise devout-minded, far out of the
right path.


He had a special affection for certain virtues which are passed over by
some as trivial and insignificant. "Everyone," he used to say, "is eager to
possess those brilliant, almost dazzling virtues which cluster round the
summit of the Cross, so that they can be seen from afar and admired, but
very few are anxious to gather those which, like wild thyme, grow at the
foot of that Tree of Life and under its shade. Yet these are often the most
hardy, and give out the sweetest perfume, being watered with the precious
Blood of the Saviour, whose first lesson to His disciples was: _Learn of Me
because I am meek and humble of heart._"[1]

It does not belong to every one to practise the sublime virtues of
fortitude, magnanimity, endurance unto death, patience, constancy, and
courage. The occasions of exercising these are rare, yet all aspire to them
because they are brilliant and their names high sounding. Very often, too,
people fancy that they are able, even now, to practise them. They inflate
their courage with the vain opinion they have of themselves, but when put
to the trial fail pitiably. They are like those children of Ephrem, who
distinguished themselves wonderfully by, in the time of peace, hitting the
target with every arrow, but in the battle were the first to fly before the
enemy. Better had their skill been less and their courage greater.

Opportunities of acquiring offices, benefices, inheritances, large sums
of money, are not to be met with every day, but at any moment we may earn
farthings and halfpence. By trading well on these small profits, many have
in course of time grown rich. We should become spiritually wealthy and lay
up for ourselves much treasure in Heaven did we employ in the service of
the holy love of God, the small opportunities which are to be met with at
every hour of our lives.

It is not enough to practise great virtues; they must be practised with
great charity, for that it is which in the sight of God forms the basis of
and gives weight and value to all good works. An act of lesser virtue (for
all virtues are not of equal importance) done out of great love to God is
far more excellent than a rarer and grander one done with less love.

"Look at this good soul, she gives a cup of cold water to the thirsty with
such holy love that it is changed into the water of life, life eternal. The
Gospel which makes light of the weightiest sums cast into the treasury,
reckons of the highest value two mites offered out of a great and fervent

"These little homely virtues! How seldom is mention made of them! How
lightly they are esteemed! Kindly concessions to the exacting temper of our
neighbour, gentle tolerance of his imperfections, loving endurance of cross
looks, peevish gestures, cheerfulness under contempt and small injustices,
endurance of affronts, patience with importunity, doing menial actions
which our social position impels us to regard as beneath us; replying
amiably to some one who has given us an undeserved and sharp reproof,
falling down and then bearing good humouredly the being laughed at,
accepting with gentleness the refusal of a kindness, receiving a favour
graciously, humbling ourselves before our equals and inferiors, keeping
on kindly and considerate terms with our servants. How trivial and poor
all this appears to those who have their hearts lifted up with proud
aspirations. We want, they seem to say, no virtues but such as go clad in
purple, and to be borne by fair winds and spreading sails towards high
reputation. They forget that those who please men are not the servants
of God, and that the friendship of the world and its applause are worth
nothing and less than nothing in His sight."[3]

[Footnote 1: Matt. xi. 29.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. _Treatise on the Love of God_. Bk. iii. c. ii.]
[Footnote 3: Cf. _The Devout Life_. Part iii. c, i., ii., and vi.]


_Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!_ Lord, increase the Faith in us!
And how is this increase of Faith to be brought about? In the same way,
assuredly, as the strength of the palm tree grows with the load it has to
bear, or as the vine profits by being pruned.

A stoic philosopher remarked very truly that virtue languishes when it has
nothing to overcome. What does a man know until he is tempted?

Our Blessed Father[1] when visiting the bailiwick of Gex, which adjoins
the city of Geneva, in order to re-establish the Catholic religion in some
parishes, declared that his Faith gained new vigour through his intercourse
with the heretics of those parts, who were sitting in darkness and in the
shadow of death.

He expresses his feelings on this subject in one of his letters: "Alas! in
this place I see poor wandering sheep all around me; I approach them and
marvel at their evident and palpable blindness. O my God! the beauty of
our holy Faith then appears by comparison so entrancing that I would die
for love of it, and I feel that I ought to lock up the precious gift which
God has given me in the innermost recesses of a heart all perfumed with
devotion. My dearest daughter, I thank the sovereign Light which shed
its rays so mercifully into this heart of mine, that the more I go among
those who are deprived of Faith, the more clearly and vividly I see its
magnificence and its inexpressible, yet most desirable, sweetness."[2]

In order to make great progress in the spirit of Faith, which is that of
Christian perfection, Blessed Francis was not satisfied with simple assent
to all those truths which are divinely revealed, or with submission to the
will of God as taught in them, he wanted more than this. It was his desire
that we should be actuated in all our dealings by the spirit of Faith, as
far at least as that is possible, so as to arrive at last at that summit
of perfect charity which the Apostle calls the more excellent way, and of
which he says that _he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit_.

[Footnote 1: St. Francis de Sales was spoken of as _Our Blessed Father_,
not only by the Visitation Nuns, but in the whole neighbourhood of Annecy.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. _The Depositions of St. Chantal_. Point 24th.]


_He who is not tempted what knows he?_ says Holy Scripture. God is
faithful, and will not permit us to be tempted beyond our strength; nay, if
we are faithful to Him, He enables us to profit by our tribulation. He not
only helps us, but He makes us find our help in the tribulation itself, in
which, thinking we were perishing, we cried out to Him to save us.

Those who imagine themselves to be in danger of losing the Faith, when the
temptations suggested to them by the enemy against this virtue, harass and
distress them, understand very little of the nature of temptations. For,
besides that temptation cannot harm us, as long as it is displeasing to us,
which is the teaching of one of the early Fathers, it actually, in such
case, produces an absolutely contrary effect to what we fear, and to the
aim of our adversary, the devil. For just as the palm tree takes deeper and
stronger root, the more it is tossed and shaken by the winds and storms,
so the more we are tossed by temptation, the more firmly are we settled in
that virtue which the temptation was striving to overthrow.

As we see from the lives of the Saints, the most chaste are those who
oppose the greatest resistance to the goad of sensuality, and the most
patient are those who struggle the most earnestly against impatience. It
is for this reason that Holy Scripture says: _Happy is he who suffers
temptation_, since, _after his trial, the crown of life awaits him_.[1]

In this way the more violent are the temptations against Faith with which
a soul is troubled, the more deeply does that virtue bury itself in the
heart, and is there held all the more tightly and closely, because of our
fear lest it escape.

Blessed Francis provides us in one of his letters with three excellent
means of resisting and overcoming temptations against Faith. The first, is
to despise all the suggestions of the Evil One. They are outside and before
our heart rather than within it, for there peace maintains its hold, though
in great bitterness. This so exasperates our proud enemy, who is king over
all the children of pride, that, seeing himself disdained, he withdraws.

The second is not to fight against this temptation by contrary acts of
the understanding, but by those of the will, darting forth a thousand
protestations of fidelity to the truths which God reveals to us by His
Church. These acts of Faith, supernatural as they are, soon reduce to ashes
all the engines and machinations of the enemy.

Our Saint gives us his third means, the use of the discipline, saying that
this bodily suffering serves as a diversion to trouble of mind, and adds
that the devil, seeing the flesh, which is his partisan and confederate,
thus maltreated, is terrified and flies away. This is to act like that
King of Moab, who brought about the raising of the siege of his city, by
sacrificing his son on the walls, in the sight of his enemies, so that,
panic-stricken, with horror at a sight so appalling, they took at once to

[Footnote 1: James i. 12.]


When the tempter sees that our heart is so firmly established in grace that
we flee from sin as from a serpent, and that its very shadow, which is
temptation, frightens us, he contents himself with disquieting us, seeing
that he cannot make us yield to his will.

In order to effect this, he stirs up a heap of trivial temptations, which
he throws like dust into our eyes, so as to make us unhappy, and to render
the path of virtue less pleasant to us.

We must take up shield and sword to arm ourselves against great
temptations; but there are many trivial and ordinary ones which are better
driven away by contempt than by any other means.

We arm ourselves against wolves and bears; but who would condescend to do
so against the swarms of flies which torment us in hot weather? Our Blessed
Father, writing to one who was sorrowful and disquieted at finding herself
assailed by temptations against Faith, though these were most hateful and
tormenting to her, expresses himself thus:

"Your temptations against Faith have come back again, even though you never
troubled yourself to answer them. They importune you again, but still you
do not answer.

"Well, my daughter, all this is as it should be: but you think too much
about them; you fear them too much; you dread them too much. Were it not
for that, they would do you no harm. You are too sensitive to temptations.
You love the Faith, and would not willingly suffer a single thought
contrary to it to enter your mind; but the moment one so much as occurs to
you you are saddened and troubled by it.

"You are too jealous of your purity of Faith. You fancy that everything
that touches it must taint it.

"No, my daughter, let the wind blow, and do not think that the rustling of
the leaves is the clash of arms. A little while ago I was standing near
some beehives, and some of the bees settled on my face. I wanted to brush
them off with my hand. 'No,' said a peasant to me, 'do not be afraid, and
do not touch them, then they will not sting you at all; but if you touch
them they will half devour you.' I took his advice, and not one stung me.

"Believe me, if you do not fear these temptations, they will not harm you;
pass on and pay no heed to them."


On this subject I must relate a charming little instance of our Blessed
Father's perfect confidence in God, of which he told me once with his
accustomed simplicity, to the great consolation of my soul, and one which
I was delighted afterwards to find related in a letter addressed to one of
his most intimate friends.

"Yesterday," he said, "wishing to pay a visit to the Archbishop of Vienne,
I went on the lake in a little boat, and felt very happy in the thought
that my sole protection, besides a thin plank, was Divine Providence. The
wind was high, and I was glad, too, to feel entirely under the command of
the pilot, who made us all sit perfectly still; and, indeed, I had no wish
to stir! Do not, however, my daughter, take these words of mine as proofs
of my being very holy. No, they are only little imaginary virtues which I
amuse myself by fancying I possess. When it comes to real earnest, I am by
no means so brave."

The simplicity of the Saint's thoughts when on the water, and of his way
of mentioning them, shows how childlike was his trust in God. It reminds
one of the happiness with which St. John leaned upon the Saviour's breast.
A saying, too, of Saint Teresa which I have read in her life comes to my
mind. She declared she was never more absolutely content than when she
found herself in some peril which obliged her to have recourse to God;
because then it seemed to her that she was clinging more closely to His
holy presence, and saying to Him, as did Jacob to the Angel, that she would
not let Him go until He had blessed her.


To a soul overwhelmed by the consideration of its infidelities and miseries
he wrote these words of marvellous consolation.

"Your miseries and infirmities ought not to astonish you. God has seen
many and many a one as wretched as you, and His mercy never turns away
the unhappy. On the contrary, by means of their wretchedness, He seeks to
do them good, making their abjection the foundation of the throne of His
glory. As Job's patience was enthroned on a dung-hill, so God's mercy is
raised upon the wretchedness of man; take away man's misery, and what
becomes of God's mercy?"

Elsewhere he writes: "What does our Lord love to do with His gift of
eternal life, but to bestow it on souls that are poor, feeble, and of
little account in their own eyes? Yes, indeed, dearly beloved children,
we must hope, and that with great confidence, to live throughout a happy
eternity. The greater our misery the greater should be our confidence."
These, indeed, are his very words in his second conference.

Again in one of his letters he says: "Why? What would this good and
all-merciful God do with His mercy; this God, whom we ought so worthily to
honour for His goodness? What, I say, would He do with it if He did not
share it with us, miserable as we are? If our wants and imperfections did
not serve as a stage for the display of His graces and favours, what use
would He make of this holy and infinite perfection?"

This is the lesson left us by our Blessed Father, and we ought, indeed,
to hope with that lively hope animated by love, without which none can
be saved. And this lively hope, what is it, but a firm and unwavering
confidence that we shall, through God's grace and God's mercy, attain to
the joy of heaven, which, being infinite, is boundless and unmeasurable.


Distrust of self and confidence in God are the two mystic wings of the
dove; that is to say, of the soul which, having learnt to be simple, takes
its flight and rests in God, the great and sovereign object of its love, of
its flight, and of its repose.

_The Spiritual Combat_, which is an excellent epitome of the science of
salvation and of heavenly teaching, makes these two things, distrust of
self and confidence in God, to be, as it were, the introduction to true
wisdom: they are, the author tells us, the two feet on which we walk
towards it, the two arms with which we embrace it, and the two eyes with
which we perceive it.

In proportion to the growth of one of these two in us is the increase of
the other; the greater or the less the degree of our self-distrust, the
greater or the less the degree of our confidence in God. But whence springs
this salutary distrust of self? From the knowledge of our own misery and
vileness, of our weakness and impotence, of our malice and levity. And
whence proceeds confidence In God? From the knowledge which faith gives us
of His infinite goodness, and from our assurance that He is rich in mercy
to all those who call upon Him.

If distrust and confidence seem incompatible with one another, listen to
what our Blessed Father says on the subject: "Not only can the soul which
knows her misery have great confidence in God, but unless she has such
knowledge, it is impossible for her to have true confidence in Him; for it
is this very knowledge and confession of our misery which brings us to God.
Thus, all the great Saints, Job, David, and the rest, began every prayer
with the confession of their own misery, and unworthiness. It is a very
good thing to acknowledge ourselves to be poor, vile, abject, and unworthy
to appear in the presence of God. That saying so celebrated among the
ancients: _Know thyself_, even though it may be understood as referring
to the knowledge of the greatness and excellence of the soul, which ought
not to be debased or profaned by things unworthy of its nobility, may
also be taken as referring to the knowledge of our personal unworthiness,
imperfection, and misery. Now the greater our knowledge of our own misery
the more profound will be our confidence in the goodness and mercy of God;
for between mercy and misery there is so close a connection that the one
cannot be exercised without the other. If God had not created man, He would
still, indeed, have been perfect in goodness; but He would not have been
actually merciful, since mercy can only be exercised towards the miserable.
You see, then, that the more miserable we know ourselves to be the more
occasion we have to confide in God, since we have nothing in ourselves in
which we can trust."

He goes on to say: "It is a very good thing to mistrust ourselves, but at
the same time how will that avail us, unless we put our whole confidence
in God, and wait for His mercy? It is right that our daily faults and
infidelities should cause us self-reproach when we would appear before
our Lord; and we read of great souls, like St. Catherine of Siena and St.
Teresa, who, when they had been betrayed into some fault, were overwhelmed
with confusion. Again, it is reasonable that, having offended God, we
should out of humility and a feeling of confusion, hold ourselves a little
in the background. When we have offended even an earthly friend, we feel
ashamed to meet him. Nevertheless, it is quite certain that we must not
remain for long at a distance, for the virtues of humility, abjection, and
confusion are intermediate virtues, or steps by which the soul ascends to
union with her God.

"It would be no great gain to accept our nothingness as a fact and to strip
ourselves of self (which is done by acts of self-humiliation) if the result
of this were not the total surrender of ourselves to God. St. Paul teaches
us this, when he says: _Strip yourselves of the old man and put on the
new_.[1] For we must not remain unclothed; but clothe ourselves with God."

Further on our Saint says: "I ever say that the throne of God's mercy is
our misery, therefore the greater our misery the greater should be our

As regards the foundation of our confidence in God, he says in the same
conference: "You wish further to know what foundation our confidence ought
to have. Know, then, that it must be grounded on the infinite goodness of
God, and on the merits of the Death and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ
with this condition on our part that we should preserve and recognise in
ourselves an entire and firm resolution to belong wholly to God, and to
abandon ourselves in all things and without any reserve to His Providence."

He adds that, in order to belong wholly to God, it is not necessary to
_feel_ this resolution, because feeling resides chiefly in the lower
faculties of the soul; but we must recognise it in the higher part of the
soul, that purer and more serene region where even in spite of our feelings
we fail not to serve God in spirit and in truth.

[Footnote 1: Col. iii. 9.]
[Footnote 2: Conference ii.]


You ask me a question which would be hard for me to answer had I not the
mind of our Blessed Father to guide and assist me in the matter.

You say: Whence comes it that Almighty God treated the rebel Angels with so
much severity, showing them no mercy whatever, and providing for them no
remedy to enable them to rise again after their fall; whereas to men He is
so indulgent, patient towards their malice, waiting for them to repent,
long suffering, and magnificent in His mercy, bestowing on them the copious
Redemption of the Saviour?

Well, He tells us in his _Treatise on the Love of God_[1] that: "The
angelic nature could only commit sin from positive malice, without
temptation or motive to excuse, even partially. Nevertheless, the far
greater part of the Angels remained constant in the service of their
Saviour. Therefore God, who had so amply glorified His mercy in the work
of the creation of the Angels, would also magnify His justice; and in His
righteous indignation resolved for ever to abandon that accursed band of
traitors, who in their rebellion had so villainously abandoned Him."

On man, however, He took pity for several reasons. First, because the
tempter by his cunning had deceived our first father, Adam; secondly,
because the spirit of man is encompassed by flesh and consequently by
infirmity; thirdly, because his spirit, enclosed as it is in an earthly
body, is frail as the vessel which enshrines it, easily overbalanced by
every breath of wind, and unable to right itself again; fourthly, because
the temptation in the Garden of Eden was great and over-mastering; fifthly,
because He had compassion on the posterity of Adam, which otherwise would
have perished with him; but the sixth, and principal cause was this:
Almighty God having resolved to take on Himself our human nature in order
to unite it to the Divine Person of the Word, He willed to favour very
specially this nature for the sake of that hypostatic union, which was
to be the masterpiece of all the communications of Almighty God to His

Do not, however, imagine that God so willed to magnify His mercy in the
redemption of man that He forgot the claims of His justice. No, truly; for
no severity can equal that which He displayed in the sufferings of His Son,
on whose sacred Head having laid the iniquities of us all, He poured out a
vengeance commensurate with His Divine wrath.

If, then, we weigh the severity displayed by God towards the rebel Angels
against that with which He treated His Divine Son when redeeming mankind,
we shall find His justice more abundantly satisfied in the atonement made
by the One than in the rigorous punishment of the others. In fine here, as
always, His mercy overrides His judgments, inasmuch as the fallen Angels
are punished far less than they deserve, and the faithful are rewarded far
beyond their merits.

[Footnote 1: Bk. ii c. iv.]


On this subject of waiting upon God I remember hearing from Blessed Francis
two wonderful explanations. You, my dear sisters, will, I am sure, be glad
to have them, and will find them of great use, seeing that your life,
nailed as it is with Jesus Christ to the Cross, must be one of great

He thus interpreted that verse of the Psalmist: _With expectation have I
waited on the Lord, and He was attentive to me._[1]

"To wait, waiting," he said, "is not to fret ourselves while we are
waiting. For there are some who in waiting do not wait, but are troubled
and impatient."

Those who have to wait soon get weary, and from weariness springs that
disturbance of mind so common amongst them. Hence the inspired saying that
_Hope that is deferred afflicteth the soul_.[2] Of all kinds of patience
there is none more fitting to tedious waiting than longanimity. Strength is
developed in dangers; patience drives away the sadness caused by suffering;
constancy avails for the bearing of great evils; perseverance for the
carrying out a good work to its completion; but longanimity has to do with
sufferings which are painful because they are long enduring.

Such pains are tedious, but not often violent, for violent sufferings
are, as a rule, not lasting; either they pass away, or he on whom they
are inflicted, being unable to bear them, is set free by death. To wait,
indeed, for deliverance from evils quietly, but without any anguish or
irritation, at least in the superior part of the soul, is to wait, waiting.
Happy are those who wait in this manner, for their hope shall not be
confounded. Of them the Psalmist says that God will remember them, that
He will grant their prayers, and that He will deliver them from the pit
of misery.[3] Those who act otherwise, and who in their adversity give
themselves up to impatience, only aggravate their yoke, instead of
lightening it.

They are like the bird which beats its wings against the wrist or perch on
which it is poised, but cannot get free from its chain.

Wise Christians making a virtue of necessity and wishing what God wishes,
make that which is necessary voluntary, and turn their suffering to their
eternal advantage.

[Footnote 1: Psalm xxxix, i.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm xiii. 13.]
[Footnote 3: Psalm xxxix. 3.]


I am asked if there is not something of a mercenary spirit in these words
of our Blessed Father: "Oh, how greatly to be loved is the eternity of
Heaven, and how contemptible are the fleeting moments of earth! Aspire
continually to this eternity, and despise heartily this decaying world."

You will observe, if you please, that there is a great deal of difference
between a proper desire of reward and a mercenary habit of mind. The proper
desire of recompense is one which looks principally to the glory of God,
and to that glory refers its own reward. A habit of mind which, according
to the teaching of the Holy Council of Trent, is most excellent.[1]

But a mercenary habit of mind is shown when we stop short voluntarily,
deliberately, and maliciously at our own self-interest, neglecting and
putting on one side the interests of God, and when we look forward only
to the honours, satisfactions, and delights given to the faithful, and
exclude, as it were, the tribute of glory and homage which they render for
them to God.

As regards these words of our Blessed Father's, I am perfectly certain
that, whatever they may at first sight seem to mean, they are assuredly the
expression of thoughts, utterly unselfish, and totally devoid of the spirit
of self-seeking. He had written just before: "Take good heed not to come to
the feast of the Holy Cross, which is a million times fuller of exquisite
pleasures than any wedding feast, without having on the white robe,
spotless, and pure from all intentions save that of pleasing the Lamb."

Again, I should like to read to you an extract from one of his letters, in
which you will see that he knew how to distinguish, even in Paradise, our
interests from those of God: So pure and penetrating was his sight that it
resembled that single eye of which the Gospel speaks,[2] which fills us
with light and discernment in things spiritual and divine. He speaks thus
in his letter: "I have not been able to think of anything this morning save
of the eternity of blessings which awaits us. And yet all appear to me as
little or nothing beside that unchanging and ever-present love of the great
God, which reigns continually in Heaven. For truly I think that the joys of
Paradise would be possible, in the midst of all the pains of hell, if the
love of God could be there. And if hell-fire were a fire of love, it seems
to me that its torments would be the most desirable of good things. All
the delights of Heaven are in my eyes a mere nothing compared with this
triumphant love. Truly, we must either die or love God. I desire that my
heart should either be torn from my body or that if it remains with me it
should hold nothing but this holy love. Ah! We must truly give our hearts
up to our immortal King, and thus being closely united to Him, live solely
for Him. Let us die to ourselves and to all that depends on ourselves. It
seems to me that we ought to live only for God. The very thought of this
fills my heart once more with courage and fervour. After all, that our Lord
_is_ our Lord is the one thing in the world that really concerns us."

Again, in his Theotimus,[3] he says:

"The supreme motive of our actions, which is that of heavenly love, has
this sovereign property, that being most pure, it makes the actions which
proceed from it most pure; so that the Angels and Saints of Heaven love
absolutely nothing for any other end whatever than that of the love of the
Divine goodness, and from the motive of desiring to please God. They all,
indeed, love one another most ardently; they also love us, they love the
virtues, but all this only to please God. They follow and practise virtues,
not inasmuch as these virtues are fair and attractive to them; but inasmuch
as they are agreeable to God. They love their own felicity, not because it
is theirs, but because it pleases God. Yea, they love the very love with
which they love God, not because it is in them, but because it tends to
God; not because they have and possess it, but because God gives it to
them, and takes His good pleasure in it."

[Footnote 1: _De Justificat_, cap. 12.]
[Footnote 2: Matt. vi. 22.]
[Footnote 3: Bk. xi. 13.]


There are some gloomy minds which imagine that when the motive of charity
and disinterested love is insisted upon all other motives are thereby
depreciated, and that it is wished to do away with them. But does he who
praises one Saint blame the others? If we extol the Seraphim, do we on that
account despise all the lower orders of Angels? Does the man who considers
gold more precious than silver say that silver is nothing at all? Are we
insulting the stars when we admire and praise the sun? And do we despise
marriage because we put celibacy above it?

It is true that, as the Apostle says, charity is the greatest of all
virtues, without which the others have neither life nor soul; but that does
not prevent these others from being virtues, and most desirable as good
habits. In doing virtuous actions the motive of charity is, indeed, the
king of all motives; but blessed also are all those inferior motives which
are subject to it. We may truly say of them what the Queen of Sheba said of
the courtiers of Solomon: _Happy are thy men who always stand before thee
and hear thy wisdom._[1]

Nay, even servile and mercenary motives, although interested, may yet
be good, provided they have nothing in them that cannot be referred to
God. They are good in those who have not charity, preparing them for the
reception of justifying grace. They are also good in the regenerate, and
are compatible with charity, like servants and slaves in the service and
households of the great. For it is right, however regenerate we may be, to
abstain from sin, not only for fear of displeasing God, but also for fear
of losing our souls. The Council of Trent tells us that we are not doing
ill when we perform good works primarily in order to glorify God; and also,
as an accessory, with a view to the eternal reward which God promises to
those who shall do such in His love and for His love. In great temptations,
for fear of succumbing, the just may with advantage call to their aid the
thought of hell, thereby to save themselves from eternal damnation and the
loss of Paradise. But the first principles of the doctrine of salvation
teach us that, to avoid evil and do good, simply from the motive of pure
and disinterested love of God, is the most perfect and meritorious mode of

What! say some:--Must we cease to fear God and to hope in Him? What, then,
becomes of acts of holy fear, and of the virtue of hope? If a mother were
to abuse the doctor who had restored her child to life, would it not excite
a strong suspicion that it was she herself who had attempted to smother it?
Did not she who said to Solomon: _Let it be divided_,[2] show herself to be
the false mother? They who are so much attached to servile fear can have no
real desire to attain to that holy, pure, loving, reverent fear which leads
to everlasting rest, and which the Saints and Angels practise through all

Let us listen to what Blessed Francis further says on this subject.

"When we were little children, how eagerly and busily we used to collect
tiny scraps of cloth, bits of wood, handfuls of clay, to build houses and
make little boats! And if any one destroyed these wonderful erections, how
unhappy we were; how bitterly we cried! But now we smile when we think how
trivial it all was.

"Well," he goes on to say, "let us, since we are but children, be pardoned
if we act as such; but, at the same time, do not let us grow cold and dull
in our work. If any one knocks over our little houses, and spoils our small
plans, do not let us now be unhappy or give way altogether on that account.
The less so because when the evening comes, and we need a roof, I mean when
death is at hand, these poor little buildings of ours will be quite unfit
to shelter us. We must then be safely housed in our Father's Mansion, which
is the Kingdom of His well-beloved Son."

[Footnote 1: 2 Paral. ix. 7.]
[Footnote 2: 1 Kings iii. 26.]


A person of some consideration, and one who made much profession of living
a devout life, was overtaken by sudden misfortune, which deprived her of
almost all her wealth and left her plunged in grief. Her distress of mind
was so inconsolable that it led her to complain of the Providence of God,
who appeared, she said, to have forgotten her. All her faithful service and
the purity of her life seemed to have been in vain.

Blessed Francis, full of compassionate sympathy for her misfortunes, and
anxious to turn her thoughts from the contemplation of herself and of
earthly things, to fix them on God, asked her if He was not more to her
than anything; nay, if, in fact, God was not Himself everything to her;
and if, having loved Him when He had given her many things, she was not
now ready to love Him, though she received nothing from Him. She, however,
replying that such language was more speculative than practical, and
easier to speak than to carry into effect, he wound up by saying, with St.
Augustine: _Too avaricious is that heart to which God does not suffice._
"Assuredly, he who is not satisfied with God is covetous indeed." This word
_covetous_ produced a powerful effect upon the heart of one who, in the
days of her prosperity, had always hated avarice, and had been most lavish
in her expenditure, both on her own needs and pleasures and on works of
mercy. It seemed as if suddenly the eyes of her soul were opened, and she
saw how admirable, how infinitely worthy of love God ever remained, whether
with those things she had possessed or without them. So, by degrees, she
forgot herself and her crosses; grace prevailed, and she knew and confessed
that God was all in all to her. Such efficacy have a Saint's words, even if


Blessed Francis, in speaking of perfection, often remarked that, although
he heard very many people talking about it, he met with very few who
practised it. "Many, indeed," he would say, "are so mistaken in their
estimate of what perfection is, that they take effects for the cause, the
rivulet for the spring, the branches for the root, the accessories for the
principle, and often even the shadow for the substance."

For myself, I know of no Christian perfection other than to love God with
our whole heart and our neighbour as ourselves. All other perfection is
falsely so entitled: it is sham gold that does not stand testing.

Charity is the only bond between Christians, the only virtue which unites
us absolutely to God, and our neighbour.

In charity lies the end of every perfection and the perfection of every
end. I know that mortification, prayer, and the other exercises of virtue,
are all means to perfection, provided that they are practised in charity,
and from the motive of charity. But we must never regard any of these means
towards attaining perfection as being in themselves perfection. This would
be to stop short on the road, and in the middle of the race, instead of
reaching the goal.

The Apostle exhorts us, indeed, to run, but so as to carry off the
prize[1], which is for those only who have breath enough to reach the end
of the course.

In a word, all our actions must be done in charity if we wish to walk in
a manner, as says St. Paul, worthy of God; that is to say, to hasten on
towards perfection.

Charity is the way of true life; it is the truth of the living way; it is
the life of the way of truth. All virtue is dead without it: it is the very
life of virtue. No one can reach the last and supreme end, God Himself,
without charity; it is the way to Him. There is no true virtue without
charity, says St. Thomas; it is the very truth of virtue.

In conclusion, and in answer to my repeated question as to how we were to
go to work in order to attain to this perfection, this supreme love of God
and of our neighbour, our Blessed Father said that we must use exactly the
same method as we should in mastering any ordinary art or accomplishment.
"We learn," he said, "to study by studying, to play on the lute by playing,
to dance by dancing, to swim by swimming. So also we learn to love God and
our neighbour _by loving_ them, and those who attempt any other method are

You ask me, my sisters, how we can discover whether or not we are making
any progress towards perfection. I cannot do better than consult our
oracle, Blessed Francis, and answer you in his own words, taken from his
eighth Conference. "We can never know what perfection we have reached, for
we are like those who are at sea; they do not know whether they are making
progress or not, but the pilot knows, knowing the course. So we cannot
estimate our own advancement, though we may that of others, for we dare
not assure ourselves when we have done a good action that we have done it
perfectly--humility forbids us to do so. Nay, even were we able to judge of
the virtues of others, we must never determine in our minds that one person
is better than another, because appearances are deceitful, and those who
seem very virtuous outwardly and in the eyes of creatures, may be less so
in the sight of God than others who appear much more imperfect."

I have often heard him say that the multiplicity of means proposed for
advancement towards perfection frequently delays the progress of souls.
They are like travellers uncertain of the way, and who seeing many roads
branching off in different directions stay and waste their time by
enquiring here and there which of them they ought to take in order to
reach their journey's end. He advised people to confine themselves rather
to some special spiritual exercise or virtue, or to some well-chosen
book of piety--for example, to the exercise of the presence of God, or
of submission to His will, or to purity of intention, or some similar

Among books, he recommended chiefly, _The Spiritual Combat_, _The Imitation
of Jesus Christ_, _The Method of Serving God_, _Grenada_, _Blosius_,
and such like. Among the virtues, as you know well, his favourites
were gentleness and humility, charity--without which others are of no
value--being always pre-supposed.

On this subject of advancement towards perfection, he speaks thus in the
ninth of his Conferences:

"If you ask me, 'What can I do to acquire the love of God?' I answer,
_Will_; i.e., _try_ to love Him; and instead of setting to work to find out
how you can unite your soul to God, put the thing in practice by a frequent
application of your mind to Him. I assure you that you will arrive much
more quickly at your end by this means than in any other way.

"For the more we pour ourselves out the less recollected we shall be, and
the less capable of union with the Divine Majesty, who would have all we
are without reserve."

He continues: "One actually finds souls who are so busy in thinking how
they shall do a thing that they have no time to do it. And yet, in what
concerns our perfection, which consists in the union of our soul with the
Divine Goodness, there is no question of knowing much; but only of doing."

Again, in the same Conference, he says: "It seems to me that those of whom
we ask the road to Heaven are very right in answering us as those do who
tell us that, in order to reach such a place, we must just go on putting
one foot before the other, and that by this means we shall arrive where we
desire. Walk ever, we say to these souls so desirous of their perfection,
walk in the way of your vocation with simplicity, more intent on doing than
on desiring. That is the shortest road." "And," he adds, "in aspiring to
union with the Beloved, there is no other secret than to do what we aspire
to--that is, to labour faithfully in the exercise of Divine love."

[Footnote 1: 1 Cor. ix. 24.]


In connection with this subject of the love of God and of our neighbour,
I asked our Blessed Father what _loving_ in this sense of the word really
was. He replied: "Love is the primary passion of our emotional desires,
and a primary element in that emotional faculty which is the will. So that
to will is nothing more than to love what is good, and love is the willing
or desiring what is good. If we desire good for ourselves we have what
is called self-love; if we desire good for another we have the love of

To love God and our neighbour, then, with the love of charity, which is
the love of friendship, is to desire good to God for Himself, and to our
neighbour in God and for the love of God. We can desire two sorts of good
for God: that which He has, rejoicing that He is what He is, and that
nothing can be added to the greatness and to the infinity of His inward
perfection; and that which He has not, by wishing it for Him, either
effectively, if it is in our power to give it to Him, or by loving and
longing, if it is not in our power to give it. For, indeed, there is a good
which God desires and which is not His as it should be in perfection. That
external good, as it is called, is the good which proceeds from the honour
and glory rendered to Him by His creatures, especially by those among
them endowed with reason. This is the good which David wishes to God in
so many of his Psalms. Among others, in the _Praise ye the Lord from the
heavens_,[1] and in the _Bless the Lord, O my soul_.[2]

The three children also in the fiery furnace wish this good to God by their
canticle: _All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord._[3]

If we truly love God we shall try to bring this good to Him through
ourselves, surrendering our whole being to Him, and doing all our actions,
the indifferent as well as the good, for His glory.

Not content with that, we shall also strive with all our might to make our
neighbour serve and love God, so that by all and in all things God may be

To love our neighbour in God is to rejoice in the good which our neighbour
possesses, provided, indeed, that he makes use of it for the divine glory;
to render him in his need all the assistance which lies within our power;
to be zealous for the welfare of his soul, and to work for it as we do
for our own, because God wills and desires it. That is to have true and
unfeigned charity, and to love God sincerely and steadfastly for His own
sake and our neighbour for the love of Him.

[Footnote 1: Psalm cxlviii. 1.]
[Footnote 2: Id. ciii. 1.]
[Footnote 3: Dan. iii. 57.]


A whole mountain of virtues, if destitute of this living, reigning, and
triumphant love, was to Blessed Francis but as a petty heap of stones. He
was never weary of inculcating love of God as the supreme motive of every

The whole of his Theotimus (_The Treatise on the Love of God_) breathes
this sentiment, and he often told me that it was impossible to insist upon
it too strongly in our teaching and advice to our people. "For, in fact,"
he used to say, "what is the use of running a race if we do not reach the
goal, or of drawing the bow if we do not hit the target?" Oh! how many good
works are useless as regards the glory of God and the salvation of souls,
for want of this motive of charity! And yet, this is the last thing people
think of, as if the intention were not the very soul of a good action, and
as if God had ever promised to reward works not done for His glory, and not
applied to His honour.


You know very well how Blessed Francis valued charity, but I will give you,
nevertheless, some more of his teaching on this great subject.

To a holy soul who had placed herself under his direction, he said: "We
must do all things from love, and nothing from constraint. We must love
obedience rather than fear disobedience. I leave you the spirit of liberty:
not such as excludes obedience, for that is the liberty of the flesh, but
such as excludes constraint, scruples, and over-eagerness. However much you
may love obedience and submission, I wish you to suspend for the moment the
work in which obedience has engaged you whenever any just or charitable
occasion for so doing occurs. This omission will be a species of obedience.
Fill up its measure by charity."

From this spirit of holy and Christian liberty originated the saying so
often to be met with in his letters: "Keep your heart in peace." That is to
say: Beware of hurry, anxiety, and bitterness of heart. These he called the
ruin of devotion. He was even unwilling that people should meditate upon
the great truths of Death, Judgment and Hell, unless they at the same time
reassured themselves by the remembrance of God's love for them. Speaking to
a holy soul, he says: "Meditation on the four last things will be useful to
you provided that you always end with an act of confidence in God. Never
represent to yourself Death or Hell on the one side unless the Cross is on
the other; so that when your fears have been excited by the one you may
with confidence turn for help to the other." The one point on which he
chiefly insisted was that we must fear God from love, not love God from
fear. "To love Him from fear," he used to say, "is to put gall into our
food and to quench our thirst with vinegar; but to fear Him from love is to
sweeten aloes and wormwood."

Assuredly, our own experience convinces us that it is difficult to love
those whom we fear, and that it is impossible not to fear with a filial and
reverent fear those whom we love.

You find some difficulty, it seems, my sisters, in understanding how all
things, as St. Paul says,[1] whether good, bad, or indifferent, can in the
end work together for good to those who love God.

To satisfy you, I quote the words of Blessed Francis on this subject in one
of his letters. "Since," he says, "God can bring good out of evil, will He
not surely do so for those who have given themselves unreservedly to Him?
Yes; even sins, from which may God in His goodness keep us, are by His
Divine Providence, when we repent of them, changed into good for those who
are His. Never would David have been so bowed down with humility if he had
not sinned, nor would Magdalene have loved her Saviour so fervently had He
not forgiven her so many sins. But He could not have forgiven them had she
not committed them."

Again: "Consider, my dear daughter, this great Artificer of mercy, who
changes our miseries into graces, and out of the poison of our iniquities
compounds a wholesome medicine for our souls. Tell me, then, I beseech
you, if God works such wonders with our sins, what will He not effect with
our afflictions, with our labours, with the persecutions which we have to
endure? No matter what trouble befalls you, nor from what direction it may
come, let your soul be at peace, certain that if you truly love God all
will turn to good. And though you cannot see the springs which work this
marvellous change, rest assured that it will take place.

"If the hand of God touches your eyes with the clay of shame and reproach,
it is only to give you clearer sight, and to cause you to be honoured.

"If He should cast you to the ground, as He did St. Paul, it will only be
to raise you up again to glory."[2]

[Footnote 1: Rom. viii. 28.]
[Footnote 2: Rom. viii. 28.]


"All by love, nothing by constraint." This was his favourite motto, and the
mainspring of his direction of others. He has often said to me that those
who try to force the human will are exercising a tyranny which is hateful
to God and man. This was why he had such a horror of those masterful and
dominant spirits which insist on being obeyed, _bon gre mal gre_, and would
have every one give way to them. "Those," he often said, "who love to make
themselves feared, fear to make themselves loved; and they themselves are
more fearful than anyone else: for others only fear _them_, but they are
afraid of every one."

I have often heard him say these striking words: "In the royal galley of
divine love there is no galley-slave; all the oarsmen are volunteers." And
he expresses the same sentiment in Theotimus, when he says: "Divine love
governs the soul with an incomparable sweetness; for no one of the slaves
of love is made such by force, but love brings all things under its rule,
with a constraint so delightful, that as nothing is so strong as love,
nothing also is so sweet as its strength."[1] And in another part of the
same book he makes a soul, attracted by the delicious perfume shed by the
divine Bridegroom on his path, say:

"Let no one think that Thou draggest me after Thee like an unwilling
slave or a lifeless load. Ah! no. Thou drawest me by the _odour of Thine
ointments_; though I follow Thee, it is not that Thou draggest me, but that
Thou enticest me. Thy drawing is mighty, but not violent, since its whole
force lies in its sweetness. Perfumes draw me to follow them in virtue
only of their sweetness. And sweetness, how can it attract but sweetly and
pleasantly?"[2] Following out this principle, he never gave a command even
to those who were bound to obey him, whether his servants or his clergy,
save in the form of a request or suggestion. He held in special veneration,
and often inculcated upon me the command of St. Peter: _Feed the flock of
God which is among you, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy
lucre's sake, neither as lording it over the clergy, but being made a
pattern of virtue to the flock._[3]

And here, my sisters, I feel that if will be for your profit, although the
story is not to my own credit, to relate a circumstance which occurred in
the early years of my episcopate. I was young, impetuous, and impatient;
eager to reform the abuses and disorders which from time to time I met with
in my pastoral visitations. Often, too, I know, I was bitter and harsh when

Once in a despairing mood because of the many failures I noticed in myself,
and others, I poured forth my lamentations and self-accusations to our
Blessed Father, who said: "What a masterful spirit you have! You want
to walk upon the wings of the wind. You let yourself be carried away by
your zeal, which, like a will-of-the-wisp, will surely lead you over a
precipice. Have you forgotten the warning of your patron, St. Peter, _not
to think you can walk in burning heat?_[4] Would you do more than God, and
restrain the liberty of the creatures whom God has made free? You decide
matters, as if the wills of your subjects were all in your own hands. God,
Who holds all hearts in His and Who searches the reins and the hearts, does
not act thus. He puts up with resistance, rebellion against His light,
kicking against the goad, opposition to His inspirations, even though His
Spirit be grieved thereby. He does, indeed, suffer those to perish who
through the hardness of their impenitent hearts have heaped to themselves
wrath in the day of vengeance. Yet He never wearies of calling them to Him,
however often they reject His offers and say to Him, _Depart from us, we
will not follow Thy ways_.[5]

"In this our Angel Guardians follow His example, and although we may
forsake God by our iniquities, they will not forsake us as long as there is
breath in our body, even though we may have fallen into sin. Do you want
better examples for regulating your conduct?"

[Footnote 1: Book i. 6.]
[Footnote 2: Book ii. 13.]
[Footnote 3: Peter v. 2, 3.]
[Footnote 4: 1 Peter iv. 12.]
[Footnote 5: Job xxi. 14.]


You ask me what I have to say as regards the love of benevolence towards
God. What good thing can we possibly wish for God which He has not already,
What can we desire for Him which He does not possess far more fully than we
can desire Him to have it?

What good can we do to Him to Whom all our goods belong, and Who has all
good in Himself; or, rather, Who is Himself all good?

I reply to this question as I have done to others, that there are many
spiritual persons, and some even of the most gifted, who are greatly
mistaken in their view of this matter.

We must distinguish in God two sorts of good, the one interior, the
other exterior. The first is Himself; for His goodness, like His other
attributes, is one and the same thing with His essence or being.

Now this good, being infinite, can neither be augmented by our serving God
and by our honouring Him, nor can it be diminished by our rebelling against
Him and by our working against Him.

It is of it that the Psalmist speaks when he says that our goods are
nothing unto Him.

But there is another kind of good which is exterior; and this, though it
belongs to God, is not in Him, but in His creatures, just as the moneys of
the king are, indeed, his, but they are in the coffers of his treasurers
and officials.

This exterior good consists in the honours, obedience, service, and homage
which His creatures owe and render to Him: creatures of whom each one
has of necessity His glory as the final end and aim of its creation. And
this good it is which we can, with the grace of God, desire for Him, and
ourselves give to Him, and which we can either by our good works increase
or by our sins take from.

In regard to this exterior good, we can practise towards God the love of
benevolence by doing all things, and all good works in our power, in order
to increase His honour, or by having the intention to bless, glorify, and
exalt Him in all our actions; and much more by refraining from any action
which might tarnish God's glory and displease Him, Whose will is our
inviolable law.

The love of benevolence towards God does not stop here. For, because
charity obliges us to love our neighbour as ourselves from love of God, we
try to urge on our fellow-men to promote this Divine glory, each one as far
as he can. We incite them to do all sorts of good, so as thereby to magnify
God the more. Thus the Psalmist said to his brethren, _O magnify the Lord
with me, and let us extol His name together_.[1]

This same ardour incites and presses us also (_urget_ is the word used by
St. Paul) to do our utmost to aid our neighbour to rise from sin, which
renders him displeasing to God, and to prevent sin by which the Divine
Goodness is offended. This is what is properly called zeal, the zeal which
consumed the Psalmist when he saw how the wicked forget God, and which
caused him to cry out: _My zeal has made me pine away, because my enemies
forgot thy words_.[2] And again, _The zeal of thy house hath eaten me

You ask if this love of benevolence might not also be exercised towards God
in respect of that interior and infinite good which He possesses and which
is Himself. I reply, with our Blessed Father in his Theotimus, that we can
wish Him to have this good, by rejoicing in the fact that He has it, and
that He is what He is; hence that vehement outburst of David, _Know ye,
that the Lord he is God_.[4] And again, _A great King above all gods_.

Moreover, the mystical elevations and the ecstasies of the Saints were acts
of the love of God in which they wished Him all good and rejoiced in His
possessing it. Our imagination, too, may help us, as it did St. Augustine,
of whom our Blessed Father writes:

"This desire, then, of God, by imagination of impossibilities, may be
sometimes profitably practised in moments of great and extraordinary
feelings and fervours. We are told that the great St. Augustine often made
such acts, pouring out in an excess of love these words: 'Ah! Lord, I am
Augustine, and Thou art God; but still, if that which neither is nor can be
were, that I were God, and thou Augustine, I would, changing my condition
with Thee, become Augustine to the end that Thou mightest be God.'"[5]

We can again wish Him the same good by rejoicing in the knowledge that we
could never, even by desiring it, add anything to the incomprehensible
infinity and infinite incomprehensibility of His greatness and perfection.
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy
glory: Praise to God in the highest. Amen.

[Footnote 1: Psalm xxxiii. 4.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm cxviii. 139.]
[Footnote 3: Psalm lxviii. 10.]
[Footnote 4: Psalm xciv. 3.]
[Footnote 5: Book v. c. 6.]


You know that among the Saints for whom our Blessed Father had a special
devotion, St. Louis of France held a very prominent position.

Now, in the life of the holy King, written by the Sieur de Joinville,
there is a little story which our Blessed Father used to say contained the
summary of all Christian perfection; and, indeed, its beauty and excellence
have made it so well known that we find it told or alluded to in most books
of devotion.

It is that of the holy woman--whose name, though written in the Book of
Life, is not recorded in history--who presented herself to Brother Yves,
a Breton, of the Order of St. Dominic, whom King Louis, being in the Holy
Land, had sent as an ambassador to the Caliph of Syria. She was holding in
one hand a lighted torch, and in the other a pitcher of water filled to the

Addressing the good Dominican, she told him that her intention was to burn
up Paradise with the one and to put out the fire of Hell with the other,
in order that henceforth God might be served with a holy and unfeigned
charity. That is to say, with a true and disinterested love, for love of
Himself alone, not from a servile and mercenary spirit; _i.e._, from fear
of punishment or hope of reward.

Our Blessed Father told me that he should have liked this story to be told
on all possible occasions, and to have had engravings of the subject for
distribution, so that by so beautiful an example many might be taught to
love and serve God with true charity, and to have no other end in view than
His Divine glory; for true charity seeks not her own advantage, but only
the honour of her Beloved.


A Salamander, according to the fable, is a creature hatched in the chilling
waters of Arctic regions, and is consequently by nature so cold that it
delights in the burning heat of a furnace. Fire, said the ancients, cannot
consume it nor even scorch it.

"Just so is it with the Christian," said Blessed Francis. "He is born in a
region far away from God, and is altogether alien from Him. He is conceived
in iniquity and brought forth in sin, and sin is far removed from the way
of salvation. Man is condemned before his very birth. _Damnatus antequam
natus_, says St. Bernard. He is born in the darkness of original sin and in
the region of the shadow of death. But, being born again in the waters of
Baptism, in which he is clothed with the habit of charity, the fire of the
holy love of God is enkindled in him. Henceforth his real life, the life of
grace and of spiritual growth, depends absolutely upon his abiding in that
love; for he who loves not thus is dead; while, on the other hand, by this
love man is called back from death to life."

"Charity," he continued, "is like a fire and a devouring flame. The little
charity which we possess in this life is liable to be extinguished by the
violent temptations which urge us, or, to speak more truly, precipitate us
into mortal sin; but that of the life to come is a flame all-embracing and
all-conquering--it can neither fail nor flicker.

"On earth charity, like fire, needs fuel to nourish it and keep it alive;
but in its proper sphere, which is Heaven, it feeds upon its own inherent
heat, nor needs other nourishment. It is of vital importance here below
to feed our charity with the fuel of good works, for charity is a habit
so disposed to action that it unceasingly urges on those in whom the Holy
Spirit has shed it abroad to perform such works. This the Apostle expresses
very aptly: _The charity of Christ presseth us_.[1]

"St. Gregory adds that the proof of true, unfeigned love is action, the
doing of works seen and known to be good. For, if faith is manifested by
good works, how much more charity, which is the root, the foundation, the
soul, the life, and the form of every good and perfect work."

[Footnote 1: 2 Cor. v. 14.]


Blessed Francis used to say that those who narrow their charity, limiting
it to the performance of certain duties and offices, beyond which they
would not take a single step, are base and cowardly souls, who seem as
though they wished to enclose in their own hands the mighty Spirit of God.
Seeing that God is greater than our heart, what folly it is to try to shut
Him up within so small a circle.

On this subject of the immeasurable greatness of the love which we should
bear to God, he uttered these remarkable words: "To remain long in a
settled, unchanging condition is impossible: in this traffic he who does
not gain, loses; he who does not mount this ladder, steps down; he who
is not conqueror in this combat, is vanquished. We live in the midst of
battles in which our enemies are always engaging us. If we do not fight
we perish; but we cannot fight without overcoming, nor overcome without
victory, followed by a triumph and a crown."


You ask me the meaning of the Apostle's saying that _the law is not made
for the just man_.[1] Can any man be just unless he accommodate his actions
to the rule of the law? Is it not in the observance of the law that true
justice consists?

Our Blessed Father explains this passage so clearly and delicately in his
Theotimus that I will quote his words for you. He says: "In truth the just
man is not just, save inasmuch as he has love. And if he have love, there
is no need to threaten him by the rigour of the law, love being the most
insistent of all teachers, and ever urging the heart which it possesses to
obey the will and the intention of the beloved. Love is a magistrate who
exercises his authority without noise and without police. Its instrument is
mutual complacency, by which, as we find pleasure in God, so also we desire
to please Him."[2]

Permit me to add to these excellent words a reminder which ought not, I
think, to be unprofitable to you. Some imagine that it is enough to observe
the law of God in order to save our souls, obeying the command of our
Lord: _Do this_, that is to say, the law, _and you shall live_,[3] without
attempting to determine the motive which impels them to observe the law.

Now the truth is that some observe the law of God from a servile spirit,
and only for fear of losing their souls. Others chiefly from a mercenary
spirit for the sake of the reward promised to those who keep it, and,
as our Blessed Father says very happily: "Many keep the Commandments as
medicines are taken, rather that they may escape eternal death than that
they may live so as to please our Saviour." One of his favourite sayings
was: "It is better to fear God from love than to love Him from fear."

He says also: "There are people who, however pleasant a medicament may
be, feel a repugnance when required to take it, simply from the fact of
its being medicine. So also there are souls which conceive an absolute
antipathy to anything they are commanded to do, only because they are so
commanded." As soon, however, as the love of God is shed forth in the heart
by the Holy Spirit, then the burden of the law becomes sweet, and its yoke
light, because of the extreme desire of that heart to please God by the
observance of His precepts. "There is no labour," he goes on to say, "where
love is, or if there be any, it is a labour of love. Labour mingled with
love is a certain _bitter-sweet_, more pleasant to the palate than that
which is merely sweet. Thus then does heavenly love conform us to the will
of God and make us carefully observe His commandments, this being the will
of His Divine Majesty, Whom we desire to please. So that this complacency
with its sweet and amiable violence anticipates the necessity of obeying
which the law imposes upon us, converting that necessity into the virtue of
love, and every difficulty into delight."[4]

[Footnote 1: Tim. i. 9.]
[Footnote 2: Book viii. c. 1.]
[Footnote 3: Luke x. 28.]
[Footnote 4: Cf. _Treatise on the Love of God_. Book viii. c. 5.]


To desire to love God is to love to desire God, and consequently to love
Him: for love is the root of all desires.

St. Paul says: _The charity of God presses us_.[1] And how does it press us
if not by urging us to desire God. This longing for God is as a spur to the
heart, causing it to leap forward on its way to God. The desire of glory
incites the soldier to run all risks, and he desires glory because he
loves it for its own sake, and deems it a blessing more precious than life

A sick man has not always an appetite for food, however much he may wish
for it as a sign of returning health. Nor can he by wishing for it obtain
it, because the animal powers of our nature do not always obey the rational

Love and desire, however, being the offspring of one and the same faculty,
whoever desires, loves, and whoever desires from the motive of charity is
able to love from the same motive. But how, you ask, shall we know whether
or not we have this true desire for the love of God, and having it, whether
it proceeds from the motions of grace or from nature?

It is rather difficult, my dear sisters, to give reasons for principles
which are themselves their own reason. If you ask me why the fire is hot
you must not take it amiss if I simply answer because it is not cold.

But you wish to know what we have to do in order to obtain this most
desirable desire to love God. Our Blessed Father tells us that we must
renounce all useless, or less necessary desires, because the soul wastes
her power when she spreads herself out in over many desires, like the river
which when divided by the army of a Persian King into many channels lost
itself altogether. "This," he said, "is why the Saints used to retire into
solitary places, so that being freed from earthly cares they might with
more fervour give themselves up wholly and entirely to divine love. This is
why the spouse in the Canticles is represented with one eye closed, and all
the power of vision concentrated in the other, thus enabling her to gaze
more intently into the very depths of the heart of her Beloved, piercing it
with love.

"This is why she even winds all her tresses into one single braid, using it
as a chain to bind and hold captive the heart of her Bridegroom, making Him
her slave by love! Souls which sincerely desire to love God, close their
understanding to all worldly things, so as to employ it the more fully in
meditating upon things Divine.

"All the aspirations of our nature have to be summed up in the one single
intention of loving God, and Him alone: for to desire anything otherwise
than for God is to desire God the less."[2]

[Footnote 1: 2 Cor. v. 14.]
[Footnote 2: Cf. _Treatise on the Love of God_. Book xii. 3.]


Not only did Blessed Francis consider it intolerable that moral virtues
should be held to be comparable to Charity, but he was even unwilling
that Faith and Hope, excellent, supernatural, and divinely infused though
they be, should be reckoned to be of value without Charity, or even when
compared with it. In this he only echoed the thought and words of the great
Apostle St. Paul, who in his first Epistle to the Corinthians writes:
_Faith, Hope, and Charity_ are three precious gifts, _but the greatest of
these is Charity_.

Faith, it is true, is love, "a love of the mind for the beautiful in the
divine Mysteries," as our Blessed Father says in his _Treatise on the
Love of God_,[1] but "the motions of love which forerun the act of faith
required from our justification are either not love properly speaking, or
but a beginning and imperfect love," which inclines the soul to acquiesce
in the truths proposed for its acceptance.

Hope, too, is love, "a love for the useful in the goods which are promised
in the other life."[2] "It goes, indeed, to God but it returns to us; its
sight is turned upon the divine goodness, yet with some respect to our own

"In Hope love is imperfect because it does not tend to God's infinite
goodness as being such in itself, but only because it is so to us.... In
real truth no one is able by virtue of this love either to keep God's
commandments or obtain life everlasting, because it is a love that yields
more affection than effect when it is not accompanied by Charity."[3]

But the perfect love of God, which is only to be found in Charity, is a
disinterested love, which loves the sovereign goodness of God in Himself
and for His sake only, without any aim except that He may be that which He
is, eternally loved, glorified, and adored, because He deserves to be so,
as St. Thomas says. And it is in the fact that it attains more perfectly
its final end that its pre-eminence consists. This is very clearly shown by
Blessed Francis in the same Treatise where he tells us that Eternal life or
Salvation is shown to Faith, and is prepared for Hope, but is given only
to Charity. Faith points out the way to the land of promise as a pillar of
cloud and of fire, that is, light and dark; Hope feeds us with its manna of
sweetness, but Charity actually introduces us into it, like the Ark of the
Covenant, which leads us dry-shod through the Jordan, that is, through the
judgment, and which shall remain amidst the people in the heavenly land
promised to the true Israelites, where neither the pillar of Faith serves
as a guide, nor the manna of Hope is needed as food.[4]

That which an ancient writer said of poverty, that it was a great good, yet
very little known as such, can be said with far more reason of Charity.
It is a hidden treasure, a pearl shut up in its shell, and of which few
know the value. The heretics of the present day profess themselves content
with a dead Faith, to which they attribute all their justice and their
salvation. There are also catholics who appear to limit themselves to that
interested love which is in Hope, and who serve God as mercenaries, more
for their own interest than for His. There are few who love God as He ought
to be loved, that is to say, with the disinterested love of Charity. Yet,
without this wedding garment, without this oil which fed the lamps of the
wise Virgins, there is no admittance to the Marriage of the Lamb.

It is here that we may sing with the Psalmist: _The Lord hath looked down
from Heaven upon the children of men to see if there be any that understand
and seek God_, that is, to know how He wishes to be served. _They are all
gone aside, they are become unprofitable together: there is none that doeth
good, no, not one_.[5] This means that there is not one who doth good
in spirit and in truth. Yet, what is serving Him in spirit and in truth
but resolving to honour and obey Him, for the love of Himself, without
admixture of private self-interest?

But whoever has learnt to serve God after the pattern of those His beloved
ones, who worship Him in spirit and in truth, in burning Faith and Hope,
animated by Charity, may be said to be of the number of the holy nation,
the royal Priesthood, the chosen people, and to have entered into the
sanctuary of true and Christian holiness, of which our Blessed Father
speaks thus: "In the sanctuary was kept the ark of the covenant, and near
it the tables of the law, manna in a golden vessel, and Aaron's rod, which
in one night bore flowers and fruit. And in the highest point of the
soul are found: 1 deg.. The light of Faith, figured by the manna hidden in
its vessel, by which we recognize the truth of the mysteries we do not
understand. 2 deg.. The utility of Hope, represented by Aaron's flowering and
fruitful rod, by which we acquiesce in the promises of the goods which
we see not. 3 deg.. The sweetness of holy Charity, represented by God's
commandments, the keeping of which it includes, by which we acquiesce in
the union of our spirit with God's, though yet are hardly, if at all,
conscious of this our happiness."[6]

[Footnote 1: Book ii. 13.]
[Footnote 2: Book i. c. 5.]
[Footnote 3: Book ii. 17.]
[Footnote 4: Book i. 6.]
[Footnote 5: Psalm xiii. 2, 3.]
[Footnote 6: Book i. 12.]


Our Blessed Father considered that no thought is of such avail to urge us
forward towards the perfection of divine love as the consideration of the
Passion and Death of the Son of God. This he called the sweetest, and yet
the most constraining of all motives of piety.

And when I asked him how he could possibly mention gentleness and
constraint or violence in the same breath, he answered, "I can do so in
the sense in which the Apostle says that the Charity of God presses us,
constrains us, impels us, draws us, for such is the meaning of the word
_Urget_.[1] In the same sense as that in which the Holy Ghost in the
Canticle of Canticles tells us that _Love is as strong as death and fierce
as hell_."

"We cannot deny," he added, "that love is the very essence of sweetness,
and the sweetener of all bitterness, yet see how it is compared to what
is most irresistible, namely, death and hell. The reason of this is that
as there is nothing so strong as the sweetness of love, so also there is
nothing more sweet and more lovable than its strength. Oil and honey are
each smooth and sweet, but when boiling nothing is to be compared with the
heat they give out.

"The bee when not interfered with is the most harmless of insects;
irritated its sting is the sharpest of all.

"Jesus Crucified is the Lion of the tribe of Judah--He is the answer to
Samson's riddle, for in His wounds is found the honeycomb of the strongest
charity, and from this strength proceeds the sweetness of our greatest
consolation. And certainly since our Lord's dying for us, as all Scripture
testifies, is the climax of his love, it ought also to be the strongest of
all our motives for loving Him.

"This it is which made St. Bernard exclaim: 'Oh, my Lord, I entreat Thee
to grant that my whole heart may be so absorbed and, as it were, consumed
in the burning strength and honeyed sweetness of Thy crucified love, that
I may die for the love of Thy love, O Redeemer of my soul, as Thou hast
deigned to die for the love of my love.'

"It is this excess of love, which on the hill of Calvary drained the last
drop of life-blood from the Sacred Heart of the Lover of our Souls; it is
of this love that Moses and Elias spoke on Mount Thabor amid the glory of
the Transfiguration.

"They spoke of it to teach us that even in the glory of Heaven, of which
the Transfiguration was only a glimpse, after the vision of the goodness
of God contemplated and loved in itself, and for itself, there will be no
more powerful incentive towards the love of our Divine Saviour than the
remembrance of His Death and Passion.

"We have a signal testimony to this truth in the Apocalypse, where the
Saints and Angels chant these words before the throne of Him that liveth
for ever and ever: _Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and
divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and benediction
from every creature which is in Heaven, and on the earth._"[2]

[Footnote 1: 2 Cor. v. 14.]
[Footnote 2: Apoc. v. 12, 18.]


I was speaking on one occasion of the writings of Seneca and of Plutarch,
praising them highly and saying that they had been my delight when young,
our Blessed Father replied: "After having tasted the manna of the Fathers
and Theologians, this is to hanker for the leeks and garlic of Egypt." When
I rejoined that these above mentioned writers furnished me with all that I
could desire for instruction in morals, and that Seneca seemed to me more
like a christian author than a pagan, he said: "There I differ from you
entirely. I consider that no spirit is more absolutely opposed to the
spirit of christianity than that of Seneca, and no more dangerous reading
for a soul aiming at true piety can be found than his works."

Being much surprised at this opinion, and asking for an explanation, he
went on to say: "This opposition between the two spirits comes from the
fact that Seneca would have us look for perfection within ourselves,
whereas we must seek it outside ourselves, in God, that is to say, in
the grace which God pours into our souls through the Holy Ghost. _Not I,
but the grace of God with me_.[1] By this grace we are what we are. The
spirit of Seneca inflates the soul and puffs it up with pride, that of
Christianity rejects the knowledge which puffs up in order to embrace the
charity which edifies. In short, there is the same difference between the
spirit of Seneca and the christian spirit that there is between virtues
acquired by us, which are, therefore, dead, and virtues that are infused
by God, which are, therefore, living. Indeed, how could this philosopher,
being destitute of the true Faith, possess charity? And yet well we know
that without charity all acquired virtues are unable to save us."

[Footnote 1: 1 Cor. xv. 10.]


Our Blessed Father, in his Twelfth Conference, teaches how to love one's
neighbour, for whom his own love was so pure and so unfeigned.

"We must look upon all the souls of men as resting in the Heart of our
Saviour. Alas! they who regard their fellow-men in any other way run the
risk of not loving them with purity, constancy, or impartiality. But
beholding them in that divine resting place, who can do otherwise than love
them, bear with them, and be patient with their imperfections? Who dare
call them irritating or troublesome? Yes, my daughters, your neighbour is
there in the Heart of the Saviour, and there so beloved and lovable that
the Divine Lover dies for love of him."

A truly charitable love of our neighbour is a rarer thing than one would
think. It is like the few particles of gold which are found on the shores
of the Tagus, among masses of sand.

Hear what he says on this subject in the eighth of his Spiritual

"There are certain kinds of affection which appear very elevated and very
perfect in the eyes of creatures, but which in the sight of God are of low
degree and valueless. Such are all friendships based, not only on true
charity, which is God, but only on natural inclinations and human motives.

"On the other hand, there are friendships which in the eyes of the world
appear mean and despicable, but which in the sight of God have every
excellence, because they are built up in God, and for God, without
admixture of human interests. Now acts of charity which are performed for
those whom we love in this way are truly noble in their nature, and are,
indeed, perfect acts, inasmuch as they tend purely to God, while the
services which we render to those whom we love from natural inclination are
of far less merit. Generally speaking, we do these more for the sake of the
great delight and satisfaction they cause us than for the love of God." He
goes on to say: "The former kind of friendship is likewise inferior to the
latter in that it is not lasting. Its motive is so weak that when slighted
or not responded to it easily grows cold, and finally disappears. Far
otherwise that affection which has its foundation in God, and therefore a
motive which above all others is solid and abiding.

"Human affection is founded on the possession by the person we love of
qualities which may be lost. It can, therefore, never be very secure. On
the contrary, he who loves in God, and only in God, need fear no change,
because God is always Himself." Again, speaking on this subject, our
Blessed Father says: "All the other bonds which link hearts one to
another are of glass, or jet; but the chain of holy charity is of gold
and diamonds." In another place he remarks: "St. Catherine of Sienna
illustrates the subject by means of a beautiful simile. 'If,' she says,
'you take a glass and fill it from a spring, and if while drinking from
this glass you do not remove it from the spring, you may drink as much as
you please without ever emptying the glass.' So it is with friendships: if
we never withdraw them from their source they never dry up."


He laid great stress at all times on the duty of bearing with our
neighbour, and thus obeying the commands of Holy Scripture, _Bear ye one
another's burdens, and so you shall fulfil the law of Christ_,[1] and the
counsels of the Apostle who so emphatically recommends this mutual support.
"To-day mine, to-morrow thine." If to-day we put up with the ill-temper of
our brother, to-morrow he will bear with our imperfections. We must in this
life do like those who, walking on ice, give their hands to one another, so
that if one slips, the other who has a firm foothold may support him.

St. John the Evangelist, towards the close of his life, exhorted his
brethren not to deny one another this support, but to foster mutual
charity, which prompts the Christian to help his neighbour, and is one of
the chiefest precepts of Jesus Christ, Who, true Lamb of God, endured, and
carried on His shoulders, and on the wood of the Cross, all our sins--an
infinitely heavy burden, nor to be borne by any but Him. The value set by
our Blessed Father on this mutual support was marvellous, and he went so
far as to look upon it as the crown of our perfection.

He says on the subject to one who was very dear to him: "It is a great part
of our perfection to bear with one another in our imperfections; for there
is no better way of showing our own love for our neighbour."

God will, in His mercy, bear with him who has mercifully borne with the
defects of his neighbour.

_Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. Give, and it shall be given to you.
Good measure of_ blessings, _and pressed down, and shaken together, and
running over shall they give into your bosom_.[2]

[Footnote 1: Gal. vi. 2.]
[Footnote 2: St. Luke vi. 37, 38.]


Speaking, my dear sisters, as he often did, on the important subject
of brotherly or friendly reproof, our Blessed Father made use of words
profitable to us all, but especially to those who are in authority, and
have therefore to rule and guide others.

He said: "Truth which is not charitable proceeds from a charity which is
not true."

When I asked him how we could feel certain that our reproofs were given out
of sincere charity, he answered:

"When we speak the truth only for the love of God, and for the good of our
neighbour, whom we are reproving."

He added: "We must follow the counsels of the great Apostle St. Paul, when
he bids us reprove in a spirit of meekness.[1]

"Indeed gentleness is the intimate friend of charity and its inseparable
companion." This is what St. Paul means when he says that charity is
_kind_, and _beareth all things_, and _endureth all things_.[2] God, who
is Charity, guides the mild in judgment and teaches the meek. His way, His
Spirit, is not in the whirlwind, nor in the storm, nor in the tempest, nor
in the voice of many waters; but in a gentle and whispering wind. _Mildness
is come upon us_, says the Royal Psalmist, _and we shall be corrected_.[3]

Again Blessed Francis advised us to imitate the Good Samaritan, who poured
oil and wine into the wounds of the poor wayfarer fallen among thieves.[4]
He used to say that "to make a good salad you want more oil than either
vinegar or salt."

I will give you some more of his memorable sayings on this subject. Many
a time I have heard them from his own lips: "Always be as gentle as you
can, and remember that more flies are caught with a spoonful of honey than
with a hundred barrels of vinegar. If we _must_ err in one direction or
the other, let it be in that of gentleness. No sauce was ever spoilt by
too much sugar. The human mind is so constituted that it rebels against
harshness, but becomes perfectly tractable under gentle treatment. A mild
word cools the heat of anger, as water extinguishes fire. There is no soil
so ungrateful as not to bear fruit when a kindly hand cultivates it. To
tell our neighbour wholesome truths tenderly is to throw red roses rather
than red-hot coals in his face. How could we be angry with any one who
pelted us with pearls or deluged us with rose water! There is nothing more
bitter than a green walnut, but when preserved in sugar there is nothing
sweeter or more digestible. Reproof is by nature harsh and biting, but
confectioned in sweetness and warmed through and through in the fire of
charity, it becomes salutary, pleasant, and even delightful. _The just
will correct me with mercy, and the oil of the flatterer shall not anoint
my head_.[5] _Better are the wounds of a friend than the kisses of the
hypocrite_;[6] if the sharpness of the friend's tongue pierce me it is only
as the lancet of the surgeon, which probes the abscess and lacerates in
order to heal."

"But (I replied) truth is always truth in whatever language it may be
couched, and in whatever sense it may be taken." In support of this
assertion I quoted the words spoken by St. Paul to Timothy:

_Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season, reprove, entreat,
rebuke in all patience and doctrine; but, according to their own desires,
they will heap to themselves teachers having itching ears, and will,
indeed, turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned into

Our Blessed Father replied: "The whole force of that apostolic lesson lies
in the phrase: _In all patience and doctrine_. Doctrine signifies truth,
and this truth must be spoken with patience. When I use the word patience,
I am trying to put before you an attitude of mind which is not one of
confident expectation, that truth will always meet with a hearty welcome,
and even some degree of acclamation; but an attitude of mind which is on
the contrary prepared to meet with repulse, reprobation, rejection.

"Surely, seeing that the Son of God was set for a sign of contradiction, we
cannot be surprised if His doctrine, which is the truth, is marked with the
same seal! Surprised! Nay, of necessity it must be so.

"Consider the many false constructions and murmurings to which the sacred
truths preached by our Saviour during His life on earth were exposed!

"Was not this one of the reproaches addressed by Him to the Jews: _If I say
the truth you believe me not._

"Was not our Lord Himself looked upon as an impostor, a seditious person,
a blasphemer, one possessed by the devil? Did they not even take up stones
to cast at him? Yet, He cursed not those who cursed Him; but repaid their
maledictions with blessings, possessing His soul in patience."

Blessed Francis wrote to me on this same subject a letter, which has since
been printed among his works, in which he expressed himself as follows:

"Everyone who wishes to instruct others in the way of holiness must be
prepared to bear with their injustice and unreasonableness, and to be
rewarded with ingratitude. Oh! how happy will you be when men slander you,
and say all manner of evil of you, hating the truth which you offer them.
Rejoice with much joy, for so much the greater is your reward in Heaven. It
is a royal thing to be calumniated for having done well, and to be stoned
in a good cause."

[Footnote 1: Gal. vi. 1.]
[Footnote 2: 1 Cor. xiii. 4, 7.]
[Footnote 3: Psalm lxxxix. 10]
[Footnote 4: St. Luke x. 34.]
[Footnote 5: Psalm cxl. 5.]
[Footnote 6: Prov. xxvii. 6.]
[Footnote 7: Tim. iv. 2, 4.]


I was one day complaining to him of certain small land-owners, who having
nothing but their gentle birth to boast of, and being as poor as Job, yet
set up as great noblemen, and even as princes, boasting of their high
birth, of their genealogy, and of the glorious deeds of their ancestors. I
quoted the saying of the wise man, that he hated, among other things, with
a perfect hatred the poor proud man, adding that I entirely agreed with

To boast in the multitude of our riches is natural, but to be vain in our
poverty is beyond understanding.

He answered me thus: "What would you have? Do you want these poor people to
be doubly poor, like sick physicians, who, the more they know about their
disease the more disconsolate they are? At all events, if they are rich in
honours they will think the less of their poverty, and will behave perhaps
like that young Athenian, who in his madness considered himself the richest
person in his neighbourhood, and being cured of his mental weakness through
the kind intervention of his friends, had them arraigned before the judges,
and condemned to give him back his pleasant illusion. What would you have,
I repeat? It is in the very nature of nobility to meet the rebuffs of
fortune with a cheerful courage; like the palm-tree which lifts itself up
under its burden. Would to God they had no greater failing than this! It is
against that wretched and detestable habit of fighting duels that we ought
to raise our voice." Saying this, he gave a profound sigh.

A certain lady had been guilty of a most serious fault, committed, indeed,
through mere weakness of character, but none the less scandalous in the
extreme. Our Blessed Father, being informed of what had happened, and
having every kind of vehement invective against the unfortunate person
poured into his ears, only said: "Human misery! human misery!" And again,
"Ah! how we are encompassed with infirmity! What can we do of ourselves,
but fail? We should, perhaps, do worse than this if God did not hold us by
the right hand, and guide us to His will." At last, weary of fencing thus,
he faced the battle, and the comments on this unhappy fall becoming ever
sharper and more emphatic, exclaimed: "Oh! happy fault, of what great good
will it not be the cause![1] This lady's soul would have perished with many
others had she not lost herself. Her loss will be her gain, and the gain of
many others."

Some of those who heard this prediction merely shrugged their shoulders.
Nevertheless, it was verified. The sinning soul returned to give glory to
God, and the community which she had scandalized was greatly edified by her
conversion and subsequent good example.

This story reminds me of the words used by the Church in one of her
offices. Words in which she calls the sin of Adam thrice happy, since
because of it the Redeemer came down to our earth--a fortunate malady,
since it brought us the visit of so great a Physician.

"Even sins," says our Blessed Father, in one of his letters, "work together
for good to those who truly repent of them."

[Footnote 1: Office for Holy Saturday.]


Men see the exterior; God alone sees the heart, and knows the inmost
thoughts of all. Our Blessed Father used to say that the soul of our
neighbour was that tree of the knowledge of good and evil which we are
forbidden to touch under pain of severe chastisement; because God has
reserved to Himself the judgment of each individual soul. _Who art thou_,
says Sacred Scripture, _who judgest thy brother?_ Knowest thou that
_wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself_?[1]

Who has given thee the hardihood to take upon thyself the office of Him
Who has received from the Eternal Father all judgment? That is to say, all
power of judging in Heaven and on earth? He observed that a want of balance
of mind, very common among men, leads them to judge of what they do not
know, and not to judge of what they do know. They, as St. Jude declares,
_blaspheme in what they know not, and corrupt themselves in what
they know_.[2] They are blind to what passes in their own homes, but
preternaturally clear-sighted to all happening in the houses of others.

Now what is this that a man knows not at all? Surely, the heart; the secret
thoughts of his neighbour. And yet how eager is he to dip the fingers of
his curiosity in this covered dish reserved for the Great Master. And what
is it that a man knows best of all, or at least ought to know? Surely,
his own heart; his own secret thoughts. Nevertheless, he fears to enter
into himself, and to stand in his own presence as a criminal before his
judge. He dreads above aught besides the implacable tribunal of his own
conscience, itself alone more surely convicting than a thousand witnesses.

Our Blessed Father pictures very vividly this kind of injustice in his
Philothea, where he says: "It is equally necessary in order to escape being
judged that we both judge ourselves, and that we refrain from judging
others. Our Lord forbids the latter[3] and His Apostle commands the former.
If we would judge ourselves we should not be judged.[4] Our way is the very
reverse. What is forbidden to us we are continually doing. Judging our
neighbour on all possible occasions, and what is commanded us, namely, to
judge ourselves, that the last thing we think of."[5]

"A certain woman" (Blessed Francis continued with a smile), "all her life
long had on principle done exactly the contrary to what her husband wanted
her to do. In the end she fell into a river and was drowned. Her husband
tried to recover the body, but was found fault with for going up the
stream, since she must, necessarily, float down with the current. 'And
do you really imagine,' he exclaimed, 'that even her dead body could do
anything else but contradict me?' We are, most of us, very like that
woman," said the Saint. "Yet it is written: _Judge not, and you shall not
be judged; condemn not, and you shall not be condemned._"[6]

How, then, you will say, is it lawful to have judges and courts of justice,
since man may not judge our neighbour? I answer this objection in Blessed
Francis' own words:

"But may we, then, under no circumstances judge our neighbour? Under no
circumstances whatever--for in a court of justice it is God, Philothea, not
man, who judges and pronounces sentence. It is true that He makes use of
the voice of the magistrate, but only to render His own sentence audible
to us. Earthly judges are His spokesmen and interpreters, nor ought they
to decide anything but as they have learnt from Him of Whom they are
the oracles. It is when they do otherwise, and follow the lead of their
own passions, that they, and not God, judge, and that consequently they
themselves will be judged. In fact, it is forbidden to men, _as_ men, to
judge others.[7] This is why Scripture gives the name of gods[8] to judges,
because when judging they hold the place of God, and Moses for that reason
is called the god of Pharaoh."[9]

You ask if we are forbidden to entertain doubts about our neighbour when
founded on good and strong reasons. I answer we are not so forbidden,
because to suspend judgment is not to judge, but only to take a step
towards it. We must, nevertheless, beware of being thereby hurried on
to form a hasty judgment, for that is the rock on which so many make
shipwreck; that is the flare of the torch in which so many thoughtless
moths singe their tiny wings.

In order that we may avoid this danger he gives us an excellent maxim, one
which is not only useful, but necessary to us. It is that, however many
aspects an action may have, the one we should dwell upon should be that
which is the best.

If it is impossible to excuse an action, we can at least modify our blame
of it by excusing the intention, or we may lay the blame on the violence
of the temptation, or impute it to ignorance, or to the being taken by
surprise, or to human weakness, so as at least to try to lessen the scandal
of it. If you are told that by doing this you are blessing the unrighteous
and seeking excuses for sin, you may reply that without either praising or
excusing his sin you can be merciful to the sinner.

You may add that judgment without mercy will be the lot of those who have
no pity for the misfortunes or the infirmities of their brother, and who
in him despise their own flesh. We all are brethren, all of one flesh.
In fact, as says our Blessed Father, those who look well after their own
consciences rarely fall into the sin of rash judgment. To judge rashly is
proper to slothful souls, which, because they never busy themselves with
their own concerns, have leisure to devote their energies to finding fault
with others.

An ancient writer expresses this well. Men who are curious in their
inquiries into the lives of others are mostly careless about correcting
their own faults. The virtuous man is like the sky, of which the stars are,
as it were, the eyes turned in upon itself.

[Footnote 1: Rom. ii. 1.]
[Footnote 2: St. Jude 10.]
[Footnote 3: St. Matt. vii. 1.]
[Footnote 4: 1 Cor. xi. 31.]
[Footnote 5: _The Devout Life_, Part iii. 28.]
[Footnote 6: St. Luke vi. 37.]
[Footnote 7: _The Devout Life_, Part iii. 28.]
[Footnote 8: Psalm lxxxi. 1, 6.]
[Footnote 9: Exod. vii. 1.]


"We do," as Blessed Francis has said, "exactly the reverse of what the
Gospel bids us do. The Gospel commands us to judge ourselves severely
and exactly, while it forbids us to judge our brethren. If we did judge
ourselves, we should not be judged by God, because, forestalling His
judgment and confessing our faults, we should escape His condemnation. On
the other hand, who are we that we should judge our brethren, the servants
of another? To their own Master they rise or fall.

"Let us not judge before the time until the Lord shall reveal what is
hidden in darkness and pierce the wall of the temple to show what passes
therein. Man judges by appearances only. God alone sees the heart; and it
is by that which is within that true judgment is made of that which is

"So rash are we in our judgments that we as often as not seize the
firebrand by the burning end; that is, we condemn ourselves while in the
very act of rebuking others. The reproach of the Gospel, _Physician, heal
thyself_,[1] we may take to ourselves. So also that other, _Why seest thou
the mote that is in thy brother's eye, and seest not the beam that is in
thy own eye_?[2] To notice which way we are going is the first condition
of our walking in the right way, according to the words of David, _I have
thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies_.[3] So, on
the other hand, we go astray if we do not pay attention to the path we are
following. Judge not others and you will not be judged; judge yourselves,
and God will have mercy on you."

[Footnote 1: St. Luke iv. 23]
[Footnote 2: St. Matt. vii. 3]
[Footnote 3: Psalm cxviii. 59]


There is a difference between uttering a falsehood and making a
mistake--for to lie is to say what one knows or believes to be false; but
to mistake is to say, indeed, what is false, but what one nevertheless
thinks in good faith to be true. Similarly, there is a great difference
between slandering our neighbour and recounting his evil deeds. The wrong
doing of our neighbour may be spoken of either with a good or with a bad
intention. The intention is good when the faults of our neighbour are
reported to one who can remedy them, or whose business it is to correct the
wrong-doer, whether for the public good or for the sinner's own.

Again, there is no harm in speaking among friends of harm done, provided it
be from friendliness, benevolence, or compassion; and this more especially
when the fault is public and notorious.

We slander our neighbour, then, only when, whether true or false, we
recount his misdeeds with intention to harm him, or out of hatred, envy,
anger, contempt, and from a wish to take away his fair name.

We slander our neighbour when we make known his faults, though neither
obliged so to do nor having in view his good nor the good of others. The
sin of slander is mortal or venial according to the measure of the wrong we
may thereby have done to our neighbour.

Our Blessed Father used to say that to do away with slander would be to
do away with most of the sins of mankind. He was right, for of sins of
thought, word, and deed, the most frequent and often the most hurtful in
their effects are those committed with the tongue. And this for several

Firstly, sins of thought are only hurtful to him who commits them. They are
neither occasion for scandal, nor do they annoy anyone, nor give anyone bad
example. God alone knows them, and it is He alone who is offended by them.
Then, too, a return to God by loving repentance effaces them in a moment,
and heals the wound which they have inflicted on the heart.

Sins of the tongue, on the other hand, are not so readily got rid of. A
harmful word can only be recalled by retracting it, and even then the minds
of our hearers mostly remain infected with the poison we poured in through
the ears; and this, in spite of our humbling ourselves to recall what we
have said.

Secondly, sins of deed, when they are publicly known, are followed by
punishment. This renders them rarer, because fear of the penalty acts as a
curb on even the basest of mankind.

But slander (except the calumny be of the most atrocious and aggravated
kind) is not, generally speaking, such as comes before the eye of the law.
On the contrary, if in the guise of bantering it is ingenious and subtle it
passes current for gallantry and wit.

This is why so many people fall into this evil; for, says an ancient
writer: "Impunity is a dainty allurement to sin."

Thirdly, slandering finds encouragement in the very small amount of
restitution and reparation made for this fault. Indeed, in my opinion,
those who direct souls in the tribunal of penance are a little too
indulgent, not to say lax, in this matter.

If anyone has inflicted a bodily injury on another see how severely
the justice of the law punishes the outrage. In olden days the law of
retaliation demanded an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. If a man
stole the goods of another he was condemned to the galleys, or even to
the gibbet. But in the case of slander, unless, as I have said, it be of
the most highly aggravated kind, there is scarcely a thought of making
reparation, even by a courteous apology. Yet those who sit in high places
value their reputation much more than riches, or life itself, seeing that
among all natural blessings, honour undoubtedly holds the first rank.
Since, then, we cannot gain admittance into heaven without having restored
that which belongs to another, let the slanderer consider how he can
possibly hope for an entrance there unless he re-establishes his
neighbour's reputation, which he tried to destroy by detraction.


Our Blessed Father insisted most earnestly upon the difference which exists
between a vice and sin, reproving those who spoke of a person who had
committed one or more grave faults as vicious.

"Virtuous habits," he would say, "not being destroyed by one act contrary
to them, a man cannot be branded as intemperate because he has once been
guilty of intemperance."

Thus when he heard anyone condemned as bad because he had committed a bad
act, he took pains with his accustomed gentleness to modify the charge by
making a distinction between _vice_ and _sin_, the former being a habit,
the latter an isolated act.

"Vice," he said, "is a habit, sin, the outcome of that habit; and just
as one swallow does not make a summer, so one act of sin does not make a
person vicious. That is to say, it does not render him a sinner in the
sense of being steeped in and wholly given over to the dominion of the
particular vice, the act of which he has committed once, or even more than

Being asked whether in conformity with this principle it would not be
equally wrong to praise anyone for a single act of virtue, as if that
virtue were his or her constant habit, he replied: "You must remember that
we are forbidden to judge our neighbour in the matter of the evil which he
may appear to do, but not in the good. On the contrary, we may and should
suppose that he has the good habit from which the act seen by us naturally
springs. Nor can we err in such a supposition, since the very perfection
of charity consists in its excess. But when we judge evil of others, our
tongue is like the lancet in the surgeon's hand, and you know how careful
he must be not to pierce an artery in opening a vein. We must only judge
from what we see. We may say that a man has blasphemed and sworn, if we
have heard him do so; but we may not in that account alone say that he is
a blasphemer; that is, that he has contracted the habit of blasphemy,
substituting the vice for the sin."

The objection was raised that it would follow that we must never attempt to
judge whether a person is or is not in a state of grace, however holy his
life may seem to be; since no one knows whether he is worthy of love or of
hate, and least of all we, who know our neighbour far less intimately than
he knows himself. To this he replied, that if faith, according to St.
James, is known by its works,[1] much more is charity so known, since it is
a more active virtue, its works being the sparks from seeing which we learn
that its fire is still burning somewhere. And though when we saw a sin,
which is undoubtedly mortal, being committed, we might have said that the
sinner was no longer in a state of grace, how do we know that a moment
afterwards God may not have touched his heart, and that he may not have
been converted from his evil ways by an act of contrition? This is why we
must always fear to judge evil of others, but as regards judging well, we
are free to do so as much as we please. Charity grows more and more by
hoping all good of its neighbour, by thinking no evil, by rejoicing in
truth and goodness, but not in iniquity.

[Footnote 1: St. James ii. 17, 26.]


When in company he heard anyone being turned into ridicule, he always
showed by his countenance that the conversation displeased him, and would
try to turn the subject by introducing some other. When unsuccessful in
this he would give the signal to cease, as is done in tournaments when the
combatants are becoming too heated, and thus put a stop to the combat,
crying: "This is too much! This is trampling too violently on the good man!
This is altogether going beyond bounds! Who gives us the right to amuse
ourselves thus at the expense of another? How should we like to be talked
about like this, and to have our little weaknesses brought out, just to
amuse anybody who may chance to hear? To put up with our neighbour and his
imperfections is a great perfection, but it is a great imperfection to
laugh at him and his short-comings."

He expresses himself to Philothea on the same subject as follows:

"A tendency to ridicule and mock at others is one of the worst possible
conditions of mind. God hates this vice exceedingly, as He has often shown
by the strange punishments which have awaited it. Nothing is so contrary
to charity, and still more so to devotion, as contempt and disparagement
of our neighbour. Now derision and ridicule are always simply contempt, so
that the learned are justified in saying that to mock at our neighbour is
the worst kind of injury that we can by mere word inflict on him; because
all other words of disparagement are compatible with some degree of esteem
for the person injured, but ridicule is essentially the expression of
contempt and disdain."[1]

Now Holy Scripture pronounces woe upon those who despise others, and
threatens them with being despised themselves. God always takes the part
of the despised against the despiser. Our Lord says: _He who despises you,
despises Me_;[2] and speaking of little children, _Take heed that you
despise not one of them_.[3] And Almighty God in comforting Moses for an
insult offered to the great law-giver by the Children of Israel, says:
_They have not despised you, but Me_.

On one occasion when Blessed Francis was present some young lady in the
company was ridiculing another who was conspicuously ill-favoured. Defects
born with her were what were being laughed over. He gently reminded the
speaker that it is God Who has made us and not we ourselves and that all
His works are perfect. But the latter assertion only making her jeer the
more, he ended by saying: "Believe me, I know for a fact her soul is more
upright, more beautiful, and better formed than you can possibly have any
conception of." This silenced her and sent her away abashed.

On another occasion he heard some people laughing at a poor hump-back who
was absent at the time. Our Blessed Father instantly took up his defence,
quoting again those words of Scripture: _The works of God are perfect_.
"What!" exclaimed one of the company. "Perfect! and yet deformed!" Blessed
Francis replied pleasantly: "And do you really think that there cannot be
perfect hunchbacks, just as much as others are perfect because gracefully
made and straight as a dart!" In fine, when they tried to make him explain
what perfection he meant, whether outward or inward, he said: "Enough. What
I tell you is true; let us talk of something better."

[Footnote 1: _The Devout Life_, Part iii. c. 27.]
[Footnote 2: Luke x. 16.]
[Footnote 3: Matt. xviii. 10.]


There is no kind of disposition more displeasing to men than one which is
obstinate and contradictory. People of this sort are pests of conversation,
firebrands in social intercourse, sowers of discord. Like hedgehogs and
horse-chestnuts, they have prickles all over them, and cannot be handled.
On the other hand, a gentle, pliable, condescending disposition, which is
ready to give way to others, is a living charm. It is like the honeycomb
which attracts every sort of fly; it becomes everybody's master, because it
makes itself everybody's servant; being all things to all men, it wins them

People of a peevish, morose disposition soon find themselves left alone
in a mighty solitude; they are avoided like thistles which prick whoever
touches them. Our Blessed Father always spoke with the highest praise of
the dictum of St. Louis, that we should never speak evil of anyone, unless
when by our silence we should seem to hold with him in his wrong-doing, and
so give scandal to others.

The holy King did not inculcate this from motives of worldly prudence,
which he detested; nor was he following the maxim of that pagan Emperor,
who declared that no one, in quitting the presence of his Sovereign, should
ever be suffered to go away dissatisfied, a saying dictated by cunning and
with the object of teaching his fellow-potentates to win men by fair words.
No, St. Louis was travelling by a very different road, and spoke in a truly
Christian spirit, desiring only to hinder disputes and contentions, and to
follow the advice of St. Paul, who wishes that we should _avoid contentions
and strivings_.[1] But if, when it is in our power to do so, we do not
openly condemn the fault or error of another, will not that be a sort of
connivance at, and consequently a participation in, the wrong-doing? Our
Blessed Father answers that difficulty thus: "When it is a question of
contradicting another, and of setting your opinion against his, it must
be done with the utmost gentleness and tact, and without any desire to
wound the feelings of the other; for nothing is gained by taking things

If you irritate a horse by teasing him he will, if he has any mettle, take
the bit between his teeth and carry you just where he pleases. But when you
slacken the rein he stops and becomes tractable.

So it is with the mind of another; if you force it to assent, you humble
it; if you humble it, you irritate it; if you irritate it, you utterly lose
hold of it. The mind may be persuaded; it cannot be constrained; to force
it to believe is to force it from all belief. _Is mildness come upon us_?
says David; _then are we corrected_.[2] The Spirit of God, gentle and
sweet, is in the soft refreshing zephyrs, not in the whirlwind, nor in
the tempest. It is God's enemy, the devil, who is called a spirit of
contradiction; and such human beings as imitate him share his title.

[Footnote 1: Titus iii. 9.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm lxxxix. 10.]


Some one having complained to Blessed Francis of the difficulty he found
in obeying the christian precept commanding us to love our enemies, he
replied: "As for me, I know not how my heart is made, or how it happens
that God seems to have been pleased to give me lately altogether a new
one. Certain it is that I not only find no difficulty in practising this
precept; but I take such pleasure in doing it, and experience so peculiar
and delightful a sweetness in it, that if God had forbidden me to love my
enemies I should have had great difficulty in obeying Him.

"It seems to me that the very contradiction and opposition we meet with
from our fellow-men, ought to rouse our spirit to love them more, for they
serve as a whetstone to sharpen our virtue.

"Aloes make honey seem sweeter; and wine has a more delicious flavour if we
drink it after having eaten bitter almonds. It is true that mostly a little
conflict and struggle goes on in our minds: but in the end it will surely
come to pass with us what the Psalmist commands when he says: _Be angry and
sin not._[1]

"What! Shall we not bear with those whom God Himself bears with? We who
have ever before our eyes the great example of Jesus Christ on the Cross
praying for His enemies. And then, too, our enemies have not crucified us;
they have not persecuted us, even to death; we have not yet resisted unto

"Again, who would not love this dear enemy for whom Jesus Christ prayed?
For whom He died? For, mark it well, He prayed not only for those who
crucified Him, but also for those who persecute us, and Him in us. As He
testified to Saul when He cried out to Him: _Why persecutest thou Me_?[2]
That is to say, Me in My members.

"We are not, indeed, obliged to love the vices of our enemy; his hatred of
good, the enmity which he bears us; for all these things are displeasing to
God, Whom they offend; but we must separate the sin from the sinner, the
precious from the vile, if we desire to be like our Saviour."

He did not admit the maxim of the world: "We must not trust a reconciled
enemy." In his opinion the exact contrary of this dictum is more in
accordance with truth.

He used to say that "fallings out" in the case of friends only serve
to draw the bonds of friendship closer, just as the smith makes use of
water to increase the heat of his fire. He added, as a well-known fact in
surgery, that the callosity which forms over a fractured bone is so dense
that the limb will never break again at that particular place.

Indeed, when a reconciliation has taken place between two persons hitherto
at variance, it is almost certain that each will set to work, perhaps even
unconsciously, to make the newly-cemented friendship firmer. The offender
by avoiding further offence, and atoning as far as possible for what is
past, and the offended person by endeavouring in a truly generous spirit to
bury that past in oblivion.

[Footnote 1: Psalm iv. 5.]
[Footnote 2: Acts ix. 4.]


On the subject of the forgiveness of enemies, Blessed Francis told me of
an incident which occurred at Padua (possibly at the time that he was
studying there). It appears that certain of the students at that university
had a bad habit of prowling about the streets at night, pistol in hand,
challenging passers-by with the cry of "Who goes there?" and firing if they
did not receive a humble and civil answer.

One of the gang having one night challenged a fellow-student and received
no answer, fired, and took such good aim that the poor young man fell dead
on the pavement. Horrified and amazed at the fatal result of his mad prank,
the student fled, hoping to hide from justice.

The first open door that he saw was that of the dwelling of a good widow,
whose son was his friend and fellow-student. Hastily entering, he implored
her to hide him in some safe place, confessing what he had done, and that,
should he be taken, all was over with him.

The good woman shut him into a little room, secret and safe, and there
left him. Not many minutes had elapsed before a melancholy procession
approached, and the dead body of her son was brought into the house, the
bearers telling the distracted mother in what manner he had been killed,
and after a little questioning, giving the name of the youth who had shot
her child.

Weeping and broken-hearted, she hurried to the place where she had hidden
the wretched homicide, and it was from her lips that he learned who it was
that he had deprived of life.

In an agony of shame and grief, tearing his hair, and calling upon death to
strike him down, too, he threw himself on his knees before the poor mother;
not, indeed, to ask her pardon, but to entreat her to give him up to
justice, wishing to expiate publicly a crime so barbarous.

The widow, a most devout and merciful woman, was deeply touched by the
youth's repentance, and saw clearly that it was thoughtlessness and not
malicious intent that had been the moving spring of the deed. She then
assured him that, provided he would ask pardon of God and change his way
of life, she would keep her promise and help him to escape. This she did,
and by so doing imitated the gentle kindness of the prophet who spared the
lives of the Syrian soldiers who had come to murder him, he having them in
his power in the midst of Samaria.[1]

So pleasing to God was this poor widow's clemency and forgiveness that He
permitted the soul of her murdered son to appear to her, revealing to
her that her pardon, granted so readily and sweetly to the man who had
unintentionally been his murderer, had obtained for his soul deliverance
from Purgatory, in which place he would otherwise have been long detained.

How blessed are the merciful! They shall obtain mercy both for themselves
and for others!

[Footnote 1: 4 Reg. vi. 12. 23]


I will give you our Blessed Father's views on this subject, first reminding
you how unfailingly patient he was with the humours of others, how gentle
and forbearing at all times towards his neighbour, and how perseveringly he
inculcated the practice of this virtue, not only upon the Daughters of the
Visitation, but upon all his spiritual children.

He often said to me: "Oh, how much better it would be to accommodate
ourselves to others rather than to want to bend every one to our own ways
and opinions! The human mind is like pulp, which takes readily any colour
mixed with it. The great thing is to take care that it be not like the
chameleon, which, one after the other, takes every colour except white.
Condescension, if unaccompanied by frankness and purity, is dangerous, and
much to be avoided.

"It is right to take compassion upon sinners, but it must be with the
intention of extricating them from the mire, not of slothfully leaving them
to rot and perish in it. It is a perverted sort of mercy to look at our
neighbour, sunk in the misery of sin, and not venture to extend to him the
helping hand of a gentle but out-spoken remonstrance. We must condescend in
everything, but only up to the altar steps; that is to say, not beyond the
point at which condescension would be a sin, and undeserving of its name.
I do not say that we must at every instant reprove the sinner. Charitable
prudence demands that we rather wait the moment when he is capable of
assimilating the remedies suitable for his malady, and till God shall _give
to his hearing joy and gladness, and the bones that have been humbled shall
rejoice_.[1] Turbulent zeal, zeal that is neither moderate nor wise, pulls
down in place of building up. There are some who do no good at all, because
they wish to do things too well, and who spoil everything they try to
mend. We must make haste slowly, as the ancient proverb says. He who walks
hurriedly is apt to fall. We must be prudent both in reproving others and
in condescending to them. _The King's honour loveth judgment._"[2]

[Footnote 1: Psalm l. 10.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm xcviii. 4.]


When the Chablais was restored to the Duke of Savoy, Bishop de Granier,
the predecessor of our Holy Founder, eager to further the design of His
Highness to bring back into the bosom of the Roman Church the population
that had been led astray, sent to it a number of labourers to gather in
the harvest. Among these, one of the first to be chosen was our Saint,
at that time Provost of the Cathedral Church of St. Peter in Geneva, and
consequently next in dignity to the Bishop.

With him were sent some Canons, Parish Priests, and others. Several members
of various Religious Orders also presented themselves, eager to be employed
in this onerous, if honourable, mission.[1]

It would be impossible to give a just idea of the labours of these
missionaries, or of the obstacles which they encountered at the outset of
their holy enterprise. The spirit of Blessed Francis was, however, most
flexible and accommodating, and greatly tended to further the work of the
people's conversion.

He was like the manna which assimilated itself to the palate of whoever
tasted it: he made himself all things to all men that he might gain all for
Jesus Christ.

In his ordinary mode of conversation and in his dress, which was mean and
common, he produced a much less jarring effect upon the minds and eyes of
these people than did the members of Religious Orders with their various
habits and diversities.

He, as well as the secular Priests who worked under him, sometimes even
condescended so far as to wear the short cloaks and high boots usual in the
country, so as more easily to gain access to private houses, and not to
offend the eyes of the people by the sight of the cassock, which they were
unaccustomed to. To this pious stratagem the members of Religious Orders
were unwilling to have recourse, their distinctive habit being, in their
opinion, almost essential to their profession, or at least so fitting that
it might never lawfully be laid aside.

Our Blessed Father went on quite a different tack, and caught more flies
with a spoonful of the honey which he was so much in the habit of using,
than did all the others with their harsher methods.

Everything about him, whether external or internal, breathed the spirit of
conciliation; all his words, gestures, and ways were those of kindliness.

Some wished to make themselves feared; but he desired only to be loved, and
to enter men's hearts through the doorway of affection. On this account,
whether he spoke in public or in private, he was always more attentively
listened to than anyone else.

However much the Protestants might attack him and purposely provoke him,
he, on his side, ever dealt with them in a spirit absolutely free from
contention, abstaining from anything likely to give offence, having often
on his lips those beautiful words of the Apostle: _If any man seem to be
contentious, we have no such custom, nor the Church of God._[2]

To come now to the particulars which I promised you, let me tell you how
our Blessed Father, having read in St. Augustine's works and in those of
other ancient Fathers that in the early centuries Christian Priests, in
addressing heretics and schismatics, did not hesitate to call them their
brethren, inferred that he might quite lawfully follow so great an example.

By doing so he conciliated these people to such an extent that they flocked
to hear him, and were charmed with the sweetness and gentleness of his
discourses, the outcome of his overflowing kindliness of heart. This mode
of expression was, however, so offensive to preachers who were in the
habit of speaking of heretics as rebels against the light, uncircumcised
of heart, etc., that they called a meeting, in which they resolved to
remonstrate with the Provost (Blessed Francis), and to represent to
him that, though he meant well, he was in reality ruining the cause of

They insisted that he was flattering the pride so inherent in heresy, that
he was lulling the people to sleep in their errors by sewing pillows to
their elbows; that it was better to correct them in mercy and justice than
to pour on their heads the oil of wheedling, as they called the kindliness
of our Saint.

He received their remonstrances pleasantly, and even respectfully, without
defending himself in any way, but, on the contrary, appearing to yield
to their zeal, albeit somewhat sadly and unwillingly. Finding, however,
that he did not begin to act upon their suggestions, as they had promised
themselves he would do, some of them sent a written appeal to the Bishop,
representing to him that he would have to recall the Provost and his
companion missioners, who with their unwise and affected levity ruined in
one day more souls than they themselves could convert in a month.

They went on to compare the labour of the missioners to Penelope's web: to
say that our Saint preached more like a Huguenot pastor than a Catholic
Priest, and, in fine, that he went so far as to call the heretics his
brethren, a thing so scandalous that the Protestants had already conceived
great hope of bringing him over to their own party.

The good Bishop, however, better informed as to the real state of the case,
paid little heed to this appeal, dictated by a bitter zeal, rather than by
the true science of the Saints. He merely exhorted each one to persevere,
and to remember that every spirit should praise the Lord according to the
talents committed to it by God.

Our Blessed Father, being informed of these complaints made against him
to his Bishop, would not defend himself, but commended his cause to the
judgment of God, and, silently but hopefully, awaited the result. Nor was
his expectation disappointed, for experience soon showed that the too
ardent eagerness of these zealots was more likely to delay than to advance
the work.

To crown all this, the preachers who had objected to his method had ere
long themselves to be set aside as unfit.

On one occasion when I was talking with him and had turned the conversation
on this subject, he said to me: "These good people looked through coloured
spectacles. They saw all things of the same hue as their own glasses. My
predecessor soon found out who were the real hindrances to the conversion
of the Protestant Cantons."

On my asking him how he could in reason apply the term "brethren" to
persons who certainly are not such, since no one can have God for his
Father who has not the Catholic Church for his mother, and since,
therefore, those who are not in her bosom cannot be our brethren, he said
to me: "Ah! but I never call them brethren without adding the epithet
_erring_, a word which marks the distinction with sufficient clearness.

"Besides, they are in fact our brethren by Baptism, which they duly
administer and receive. Moreover, they are our brethren according to the
flesh, for are we not all children of Adam? Then, too, we are fellow
citizens, and subjects of the same earthly prince. Is not that enough to
constitute a kind of fraternity between us?

"Lastly, I look upon them as children of the Church, at least in
disposition, since they are willing to be instructed; and as my brethren
in hope, since they also are called to inherit eternal life. In the early
days of the Church it was customary to give the title of brethren to
catechumens, even before their baptism."

These reasons satisfied me and made me esteem highly the ingenious method
suggested to him by the Holy Spirit to render these unruly and untaught
souls docile and tractable.

[Footnote 1: M. Camus must have been misinformed. St. Francis had but few
fellow-workers in the early years of his mission in the Chablais. [Ed.]]
[Footnote 2: 1 Cor. xi. 16.]


Blessed Francis not only taught, but practised deference and a certain
obedience towards his inferiors; towards his flock, towards his fellow
citizens, and even towards his servants. He obeyed his body servant in what
concerned his rising, his going to bed, and his toilet, as if he himself
had been the valet and the other the master.

When he sat up far into the night either to study or to write letters, he
would beg his servant to go to bed, for fear of tiring him by keeping him
up. The man would grumble at his request, as if he were being taken for
a lazy, sleepy-headed fellow. Our Blessed Father patiently put up with
grumblings of the sort, but would complete what he had in hand as quickly
as possible, so as not to keep the man waiting.

One summer morning Blessed Francis awoke very early, and, having some
important matter on his mind, called this servant to bring him some
necessaries for his toilet. The man, however, was too sound asleep to be
roused by his master's voice. The good Prelate therefore, on rising, looked
into the adjoining room, thinking that the man must have left it, but
finding him fast asleep, and fearing to do him harm by waking him suddenly,
dressed without his assistance and betook himself to his prayers, studies,
and writing. Later the servant awoke, and dressed, and, coming to his
master's room, to his surprise found him deep in his studies. The man asked
him abruptly how he had managed without him. "I fetched everything myself,"
replied the holy Prelate. "Am I not old enough and strong enough for that?"
"Would it have been too much trouble to call me?" said the man grumblingly.
"No, indeed, my child," said Blessed Francis, "and I assure you that I did
call you several times; but at last, thinking that you must have gone out,
I got up to see where you were, and, finding you sleeping profoundly, I had
not the heart to wake you." "You have the heart, it seems, to turn me into
ridicule," retorted the man. "Oh, no, my friend," said Francis. "I was
only telling you what happened, without a thought of either blaming you or
making fun of you. Come, I promise you that for the future I will never
stop calling you till you awake."


His opinion was that masters, as a rule, commit many grave faults with
regard to their servants, by treating them with harshness and severity.
Such conduct is quite unworthy of christians, and, in them, worse even than
the behaviour of pagans in olden times to their slaves.

He himself never uttered an angry or threatening word to any one of his
domestics. When they committed a fault, he corrected them so mildly that
they were ready at once to make amends and to do better, out of love to
their good master rather than from fear of him.

Once, when I was talking to him on this subject, I quoted the saying
that "Familiarity breeds contempt, and contempt hatred." "Yes," he
said, "improper familiarity, but never civil, cordial, kindly, virtuous
familiarity; for as that proceeds from love, love engenders its like, and
true love is never without esteem, nor, consequently, without respect for
the object loved, seeing that love is founded wholly on the estimation
in which the thing or person beloved is held. You know the saying of the
ancient tyrant: _Let them hate me, provided that they fear me_. Speaking on
this subject, we may well reverse the motto and say: _Let them despise me,
provided only that they love me_. For if this contempt produces love, love
after a while will stifle contempt, and sooner or later will in its place
put respect; since there is no one that one reverences more, or has a
greater fear of offending, than a person whom one loves in truth and
sincerity of heart."

With regard to this, he told me a story, which he alludes to in his
Philothea. Blessed Elzear, Comte d'Arian, in Provence, was so exceedingly
gentle in his treatment of his servants that they looked upon him as a
person positively deficient in understanding, and behaved in his presence
with the greatest incivility and insolence, knowing well his persevering
tolerance of injuries and his boundless patience. His wife, the saintly
Delphina, feeling more acutely than he the disrespectful conduct of their
servants, complained of it to him, saying that the menials absolutely
laughed in his face. "And if they do," he answered, "why should I be put
out by these little familiarities, pleasantries, and bursts of merriment,
seeing that I am quite certain they do not hate me? They have not yet
struck me, spat in my face, or offered me any of those indignities which
Jesus Christ our Lord suffered at the hands of the high priest's servants,
and not alone from those who scourged Him, derided Him, and crucified
Him. Is it fitting that I, who glory in being the servant of Jesus Christ
crucified, should desire to be better treated than my Master? Does it
become a member to complain of any hardship under a Head wearing no crown
but one of thorns? All that you tell me is but a mere jest compared with
the insults heaped upon our divine Lord. The contempt of my servants--if,
indeed, they do despise me--is a splendid lesson, teaching me to despise
myself. How shall we practise humility if not on such occasions as these?"

Our Blessed Father went on to say: "I have proposed this example rather for
your admiration than for your imitation, and that you may see of what means
holy love makes use, in the hearts which are its own, in order to lead them
to find rest in the very things which trouble those who are less devout.
What I would say on the subject of servants is this; that, after all, they
are our fellow-men and our humble brethren, whom charity obliges us to
love as ourselves. Come, then, let us love them as ourselves, these dear
yoke-fellows, who are so closely bound to us, who live under the same roof,
and eat and drink of our substance. Let us treat them like ourselves, or
as we should wish to be treated if we were in their place, and of their
condition in life. That is the best way to deal with servants."


Like master, like man. Not only were all our Blessed Father's servants
virtuous (he would not have suffered any who were not, to form part of his
household), but, following their master's example, they were all singularly
gentle and obliging in their manners and behaviour.

One of them, a young man, handsome, virtuous, and pious, was greatly sought
after by many of the citizens, who thought he would prove a most desirable
son-in-law, and to this end they encouraged his intercourse with their
daughters. About the several advantageous matches proposed to him he always
used to tell the Bishop. One day the latter said to him, "My dear son, your
soul is as dear to me as my own, and there is no sort of advantage that I
do not desire for you and would not procure for you if I could. That you
know very well, and you know, too, that it is possibly only your youth that
dazzles the eyes of certain young girls and makes them want you for their
husband; but I am of opinion that more age and experience is needed before
you take upon yourself the cares of a family. Think well over the matter,
for when once embarked it will be too late to repent of what you have done.

"Marriage is an Order in which the profession must be made before the
novitiate; if there were a year's probation, as there is in the cloister,
there would be very few professions. After all, what have I done to you to
make you wish to leave me? I am old, I shall soon die, and then you can
dispose of yourself as you please. I shall bequeath you to my brother, who
will provide for you quite as advantageously as these proposed matches
would have done."

He said this with tears in his eyes, which so distressed the young man that
he threw himself at the Bishop's feet, asking his pardon for having even
thought of quitting him, and renewing his protestations of fidelity and of
determination to serve him in life and death.

"No, no, my son," he replied; "I have no wish to interfere with your
liberty. I would, on the contrary, purchase it, like St. Paul, at the cost
of my own. But I am giving you friendly advice, such as I would offer to my
own brother were he of your age." And in very truth he treated the members
of his household; not as servants, but as his brothers and children. He was
their elder brother or their father, rather than their master.


He practised to the letter the divine precept: _Give to him who asketh of
thee_,[1] though, indeed, he possessed so few earthly goods that it was a
standing marvel to me how he could give away as much as he did! Truly, I
believe that God often multiplied the little which was really in his hands.

As regards heavenly goods, he was lavish of them to all who came to him
as petitioners. He never refused spiritual consolation or advice either
in public or in private, and his readiness to supply abundantly and
spontaneously this mystical bread of life and wisdom was surprising. His
alertness when requested to preach was also peculiarly remarkable, as
his action was naturally heavy, and his habit of thought, as well as his
enunciation, somewhat slow.

On one occasion, in Paris, he was asked to preach on a certain day, and
readily consented to do so. One of his attendants then reminded him that he
was engaged to preach elsewhere on the same day. "No matter," the Bishop
replied, "God will give us grace to multiply our bread. _He is rich towards
all who invoke Him._"[2] His servant next remarked that some care was
surely due to his health. "What!" exclaimed Blessed Francis, "do you think
that if God gives us the grace to find matter for preaching, He will not
at the same time take care of the body, the organ by means of which His
doctrine is proclaimed? Let us put our trust in Him, and He will give us
all the strength we need."

"But," objected the other, "does God forbid us to take care of our health?"

"By no means," answered the Bishop; "but He does forbid a want of
confidence in His goodness ... and," he added seriously and firmly, "were I
requested to preach a third sermon on that same day, it would cost me less
both in mind and body to consent than to refuse. Should we not be ready to
sacrifice, and even, as it were, to obliterate ourselves, body and soul,
for the benefit of that dear neighbour of ours whom our Lord loved so much
as even to die for him?"

[Footnote 1: Matt. v. 43.]
[Footnote 2: Rom. x. 12.]


Our Blessed Father had, as we know, so high an idea of the virtue of
charity, which, indeed, he said was only christian perfection under another
name, that he disliked to hear almsgiving called charity. It was, he said,
like putting a royal crown on the head of a village maiden.

In answer to my objection that this was actually the case with Esther, who,
though only a slave, was chosen by Assuerus to be his queen, and crowned by
his royal hand, he replied: "You only strengthen my argument, for Esther
would have remained in her state of servitude had she not become the spouse
of Assuerus, and, queen though she was, she only wore her crown dependently
on his will and pleasure. So almsgiving is only pleasing to God, and worthy
of its reward, the heavenly crown of justice, in as far as it proceeds
from charity, and is animated by that royal gift which converts it into
an infused and supernatural virtue, which may be called either almsgiving
in charity, of charitable almsgiving. But, just as the two natures, the
divine and the human, were not merged in one another in the mystery of the
Incarnation, although joined in the unity of the hypostasis of the Word,
so this conjunction of charity with almsgiving, or this subordination of
almsgiving to charity, does not change the one into the other, the object
of each being as different as is the Creator from the creature. For the
object of almsgiving is the misery of the needy which it tries as far as
possible to relieve, and that of charity is God, Who is the sovereign Good,
worthy to be loved above all things for His own sake." "But," I said,
"when almsgiving is practised for the love of God, can we not then call
it charity?" "No," he replied, "not any more than you can call Esther
Assuerus, and Assuerus Esther. But you can, as I have said above, call it
alms given in charity, or charitable almsgiving.

"Almsgiving and charity are quite different, for not only may alms be given
without charity, but even against charity, as when they are given knowing
they will lead to sin."

In a remarkable passage in Theotimus the Saint asks: "Were there not
heretics, who, to exalt charity towards the poor, deprecated charity
towards God, ascribing man's whole salvation to almsdeeds, as St. Augustine

[Footnote 1: Love of God. B. xi. c. 14.]


Our Blessed Father was always full of tenderness, compassion, and
gentleness towards sinners, but he regarded and treated them in different
ways according to their various dispositions.

A sinner who had grown old in evil, who clung obstinately to his wicked
ways, who laughed to scorn all remonstrances, and gloried in his shame,
formed a spectacle so heart-breaking and so appalling to the holy Bishop,
that he shrank from contemplating it. When he had succeeded in turning his
thoughts to some other subject, on their being suddenly recalled to it, he
would shudder as if a secret wound had been touched, and utter some devout
and fervent ejaculation such as this: "Ah! Lord, command that this blind
man see! Speak the word only, and he shall be healed! Oh, my God, those who
forsake Thee shall be forsaken; convert him, and he shall be converted!"

With obstinate sinners of this class his patience was unwearied. For such,
he said, God Himself waited patiently, even until the eleventh hour;
adding that impatience was more likely to embitter them and retard their
conversion than remonstrance to edify them.

For the sinner who was more open to conviction, and was not so obstinate
in his malice, for him who had, that is to say, lucid intervals in his
madness, Blessed Francis had the most tender affection, regarding him as a
poor paralytic waiting on the edge of the pool of healing for some helping
hand to plunge him into it. To such he behaved as did the good shepherd of
the Gospel, Who left the ninety-nine sheep in the desert to seek after the
hundredth which had gone astray.

But towards the sinner when once converted, how describe his attitude of
mind! He regarded him not as a brand snatched from the burning, not as a
bruised reed, not as an extinguished taper that was still smoking, but as
a sacred vessel filled with the oil of grace, as one of those trees which
the ancients looked upon as holy because they had been struck by fire from
Heaven. It was marvellous to observe the honour which he paid to such a
one, the esteem in which he held him, the praises which he bestowed upon

He always considered that souls delivered by God from the mouth of
the roaring lion were in consequence likely to be more vigilant, more
courageous in resisting temptation, and more careful in guarding against

He did all he could to cover the faults of others, his goodness of heart
being so great that he never allowed himself to think ill even of the
wicked. He attributed their sinfulness to the violence of temptation and
the infirmity of human nature. When faults were public and so manifest that
they could not be excused, he would say: "Who knows but that the unhappy
soul will be converted? The greatest sinners often become the greatest
penitents, as we see in the case of David. And who are we that we should
judge our brother? Were it not for the grace of God we should perhaps do
worse than he."

He never allowed the conversion of a sinner to be despaired of, hoping on
till death. "This life," he said, "is our pilgrim way, in which those who
now stand may fall, and those who have fallen may, by grace, be set on
their feet again." Nor even after death would he tolerate an unfavourable
judgment being passed on any.

His reason for this was that as the original grace of justification was not
given by way of merit, so neither could the grace of final perseverance be

With regard to this subject he related to me an amusing incident which
occurred whilst he was a missioner in the Chablais. Amongst the Priests and
Religious who were sent to help him was one of a humorous temperament, and
who did not hesitate to show that he was so, even in the pulpit. One day,
when preaching before our Blessed Prelate against the heresiarch[1] who
had raised the standard of revolt in Geneva, he said that we should never
condemn any one as lost after death, except such as are by Scripture
denounced; no, not even the said heresiarch who had caused so much evil
by his errors. "For," he went on to say, "who knows but that God may have
touched his heart at the last moment and converted him? It is true that out
of the Church and without the true faith there is no salvation; but who can
say that he did not at the moment of death wish to be reunited with the
Catholic Church, from which he had separated himself, and acknowledge in
his heart the truth of the belief he had combated, and that thus he did not
die sincerely repentant?"

After having surprised the congregation by these remarks, he most
unexpectedly concluded by saying: "We must certainly entertain sentiments
of boundless confidence in the goodness of God, Who is infinite in mercy to
those who invoke Him. Jesus Christ even offered His peace, His love, and
His salvation to the traitor Judas, who betrayed Him by a kiss. Why, then,
may He not have offered the same favour to this unhappy heresiarch? Is the
arm of God shortened?

"Yet, my brethren," he continued, "believe me, and I assure you I lie not,
if this man is not damned he has had the narrowest escape man ever had; and
if he has been saved from eternal wreck, he owes to God _the handsomest
votive candle that a person of his condition ever offered!_"

As you may imagine, this _finale_ did not draw many tears from the

[Footnote 1: Calvin.]


He often went to carry consolation to prisoners, and sometimes accompanied
condemned criminals to the place of execution, that he might help them to
make a good death.

At such times, too, he kept to the methods we have already described as
used by him in his visiting of the rest of the dying. After having made
them unburden their conscience, he left them a little breathing space, and
then at intervals suggested to them acts of faith, hope, and charity, of
repentance, of resignation to the Will of God, and of abandonment to His
mercy; not adding to their sufferings by importunity, long harangues, or
endless exhortations.

So happily did the Blessed Prelate succeed in this method of treatment,
that sometimes the poor criminals whom he accompanied to their execution
went to it as to a marriage feast, with joy and peace, such as they had
never experienced in the whole course of their lawless and sinful lives,
happier far so to die than to live on as they had done. "It is," he would
say to them, "by lovingly kissing the feet of God's justice that we most
surely reach the embrace of His tender mercy.

"Above all things, we must be confident that they who trust in Him shall
never be confounded."


Blessed Francis' extreme gentleness always led him to lean towards
indulgent judgment, however slight in a particular case the apparent
justification might be.

On one occasion there was a discussion in his presence as to the meaning of
those terrible words in the Gospel: _Many are called, but few chosen_.[1]
Some one said that the chosen were called a little flock, whereas the
unwise or reprobates were spoken of as many in number, and so on. He
replied that, in his opinion, there would be very few Christians (meaning,
of course, those who are in the true Church, outside which there is no
salvation) who would be lost, "because," he said, "having the root of the
true faith, the tree that springs from it would sooner or later bear its
fruit, which is salvation, and awakening, as it were, from death to life,
they would become, through charity, active and rich in good works."

When asked what, then, was the meaning of the statement in the Gospel as to
the small number of the elect, he replied that in comparison with the rest
of the world, and with infidel nations, the number of Christians was very
small, but that of that small number very few would be lost, in conformity
to that striking text, _There is no condemnation for those that are in
Christ Jesus_.[2] Which really means that justifying grace is always being
offered them, and this grace is inseparable from a lively faith and a
burning charity. Add to this that He who begins the work in us is He who
likewise perfects it. We may believe that the call to christianity, which
is the work of God, is always a perfect work, and therefore leads of itself
to the end of all perfection, which is heavenly glory.

[Footnote 1: Matt. XX. 16.]
[Footnote 2: Rom. viii. 1.]


This maxim of our Blessed Father's seems strange and altogether contrary to
his sweet and affectionate nature.

If, however, we look closely into it, we shall find that it is full of the
purest and most subtle love of God.

When he said that we ought to love to be hated, and hate to be loved, he
was referring in the one case to the love which is in and for God alone,
and in the other to that merely human love, which is full of danger, which
robs God of His due, and of which, therefore, we should hate to be the
object. He expresses himself thus:

"Those who have nothing naturally attractive about them are very fortunate,
for they are well assured that the love which one bears them is excellent,
being all for God's sake alone."


Blessed Francis always said that the excellence of obedience consists not
in doing the will of a gentle, courteous superior, who commands rather by
entreaty than as one having authority, but in bowing the neck beneath the
yoke of one who is harsh, stern, imperious, severe. He was, it is true,
desirous that those who had to judge and direct souls should do so as
fathers rather than as masters, as, indeed, he did himself, but at the same
time he wished those in authority to be somewhat strict, and those subject
to them to be less sensitive and selfish, and consequently less impatient,
less refractory, and less given to grumbling than most men are.

He used also to say that a rough file takes off more rust and polishes iron
better than a smooth and less biting one, and that very many and very heavy
blows of the hammer are needed to temper a keen sword blade.

"But," I said to him, when discussing this subject, "as the most perfect
obedience is that which springs from love, ought not the command to be
given lovingly, so as to incite the subordinate to a loving obedience?" He
answered: "There is a great deal of difference between the excellence of
obedience and its perfection.

"The excellence of a virtue has to do with its nature; its perfection with
the grace, or charity, in which it is clothed. Now, here I am not speaking
of the supernatural perfection of obedience which emanates most assuredly
from the love of God; but of its natural excellence, which is better tested
by harsh than by gentle commands.

"Excessive indulgence on the part of parents and superiors is only too
often the cause of many disorders.

"More than this, even as regards the supernatural perfection of obedience,
it is very probable that the harshness of the command given helps its
growth, and renders our love of God, which is our motive in obeying,
stronger, firmer, and more generous. When a superior commands with
over-much gentleness and circumspection, besides the fact that he
compromises his authority and causes it to be slighted, he so attracts and
attaches his inferior to himself that often unconsciously he robs God of
the devotedness which is His due. The result is that the inferior obeys the
man whom he loves, and because he loves him, rather than God in the man,
and for the love of God alone.

"On the other hand, harshness tests far better the fidelity of a heart
which loves God sincerely. For, finding nothing pleasing in the command
except the sweetness of divine love, to which alone it yields obedience,
the perfection of that obedience becomes the greater, since the intention
is purer, more direct, and more immediately turned to God. It was in this
spirit that David said that, _for the sake of the words_ of God--that is,
of His law--he had _kept hard ways_."[1] Our Blessed Father added this
simile to explain his meaning further:

"Obeying a harsh, irritating, and vexatious superior is like drawing clear
water from a spring which flows through the jaws of a lion of bronze. It
is like the riddle of Samson, _Out of the eater came forth meat_; it is
hearing God's voice, and seeing God's will alone in that of a superior,
even if the command be, as in the case of St. Peter, _Kill and eat_;[2] it
is to say with Job, _Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him._"[3]

[Footnote 1: Psalm xvi. 4.]
[Footnote 2: Acts x. 13.]
[Footnote 3: Job xiii. 15.]


Asking him one day if it was possible for persons in authority, whether
in the world or in the cloister, to practise the virtue of obedience,
he replied: "Certainly, and they can do so far more perfectly and more
heroically than their subjects."

Then, seeing my astonishment at this apparent paradox, he went on to
explain it in the following manner: "Those who are obliged, either by
precept or by vow, which takes the place of precept, to practise obedience,
are, as a rule, subject only to one superior. Those, on the other hand,
who are in authority, are free to obey more widely, and to obey even in
commanding, because if they consider that it is God Who puts them over the
heads of the others, and Who commands them to command those others, who
does not see that even their commanding is an act of obedience? This kind
of obedience may even be practised by princes who have none but God set
over them, and who have to render an account of their actions to Him alone.
I may add that there is no power on earth so sublime as not to have, at
least in some respects, another set over it. Christian kings render filial
obedience to the Roman Pontiff, and the sovereign Pontiff himself submits
to his confessor in the Sacrament of Penance. But there is a still higher
degree of obedience which even Prelates and the greatest among men may
practise. It is that which the Apostle counsels when he says: _Be ye
subject to every human creature for God's sake_.[1] Who for love of us
not only became subject to the Blessed Virgin and to St. Joseph, but made
Himself obedient to death and to the death of the Cross, submitting Himself
in His Passion to the most sinful and degraded of the earth, uttering not a
cry, even as a lamb under the hand of him who shears it and slays it. It is
by this universal obedience to every creature that we become all things to
all men in order that we may win all to Jesus Christ. It is by this that we
take our neighbour, whoever he may be, for our superior, becoming servants
for our Lord's sake."

[Footnote 1: 1 Peter ii. 13.]


On one occasion, when the Duke of Savoy, being pressed by many urgent
public needs, had obtained from the Pope a Brief empowering him to levy
contributions on the Church property in his dominions, Blessed Francis,
finding some slackness and unwillingness on the part of the beneficed
clergy of the diocese to yield obedience to this order, when he had called
them together to settle what was to be done, spoke with just indignation.
"What! gentlemen," he cried, "is it for us to question and reason when two
sovereigns concur in issuing the same command? Is it for us, I say, to
scrutinize their counsels, and ask, Why are you acting thus? Not only to
the decrees of sovereign courts, but even to the sentence of the most
insignificant judges appointed by God to decide differences in our affairs,
we yield deference so far as not to enquire into the motive of their
decisions. And here, where two oracles who have only to render account to
God of what orders they give, speak, we set to work to enquire into their
motives and reasons as if we were charged to investigate their conduct.
Assuredly, I will take no part in such doings. Our virtue, indeed, lags
sadly behind that of those christians--only lay people too--of whom St.
Paul said that being wise themselves they _gladly suffered bondage,
stripes, every sort of ill-usage from the foolish_,[1] and of whom, in
another place, he says that they _took with joy the being stripped of their
own goods_, knowing that they had _a better and a lasting substance_.[2]
And the Apostle, as you know, is speaking to men who had been unjustly
despoiled of their whole property by robbers and tyrants, whereas you will
not give up a small fraction of yours to assist in the public need of our
good Prince, to whose zeal we owe the re-establishment of the Catholic
religion in the three divisions of the Chablais, and whose enemies are the
adversaries of our faith! Is not our Order the first of the three estates
in a christian kingdom? Is there anything more just than to contribute of
our wealth, together with our prayers, towards the defence of our altars,
of our lives, and of our peace? The people are lavishing their substance
and the nobility their blood for the same cause. Remember the late wars,
and tremble lest your ingratitude and disobedience should plunge you again
into similar troubles."

Adding example to precept, he paid so heavy a tax upon a part of his own
revenue that none could say he did not practise what he preached, and
all those who had ventured to oppose him in the matter were not only
effectually silenced, but covered with confusion and put to a just shame.

[Footnote 1: 2 Cor. xi. 19, 20.]
[Footnote 2: Heb. x. 34.]


_Godliness with contentment_, says Holy Scripture, _is great gain_.[1]

So content was the godliness of Blessed Francis that, although deprived of
the greater part of his episcopal revenues, he was fully satisfied with the
little that was left to him.

After all, he would say, are not twelve hundred crowns a handsome income
for a Bishop? The Apostles, who were far better Bishops than we are, had
nothing like that sum. It is not for us to fix our own pay for serving God.

His love of poverty was truly striking. At Annecy he lodged in a hired
house, which was both handsome and roomy, and in which the apartments
assigned to him as Bishop were very elegantly furnished. He, however, took
up his abode in an uncomfortable little room, where there was hardly any
light at all, so that he could truly say with Job: _I have made my bed in
darkness_;[2] or with David: _Night shall be my light in my pleasures_;[3]
or again, _I am like a night raven in the house, or as a sparrow all alone
on the housetop_.[4]

He called this little room, or, to speak more truly, this sepulchre of a
living man, Francis' chamber, while to that in which he received visitors,
or gave audience, he gave the name of the Bishop's chamber.

Truly, the lover of holy poverty can always find a means of practising it,
even in the midst of riches.

Blessed Francis, indeed, always welcomed poverty with a smiling
countenance, though naturally it be apt to cast a gloom and melancholy upon
the faces both of those who endure it and of those who only dread it.

Involuntary poverty is surly and discontented, for it is forced and
against the will. Voluntary poverty, on the contrary, is joyous, free, and
light-hearted. To show you how cheerfully and pleasantly he talked on this
subject, I will give you one or two of his remarks.

Once, showing me a coat which had been patched up for him, and which he
wore under his cassock, he said: "My people really work little miracles;
for out of an old garment they have made me this perfectly new coat. Am I
not well-dressed?"

Again, when his steward was complaining of down-right distress, and of
there being no money left, he said: "What are you troubling yourself about?
We are now more like our Master, Who had not even where to lay His head,
though as yet we are not reduced to such extremity as that." "But what are
we to do?" persisted the steward. "My son," the Bishop answered, "we must
live as we can, on whatever goods we have, that is all." "Truly," replied
the other, "it is all very well to talk of living on our goods when there
are none left to live upon!" "You do not understand me," returned the
Bishop; "we must sell or pledge some of our furniture in order to live.
Will not that, my good M.R.,[5] be living on our goods?"

It was in this fashion that the Saint was accustomed to meet cheerfully
money troubles, so unbearable to weaker characters.

On one occasion I expressed my admiration at his being able to make so good
a show on his small means. "It is God," he said, "Who multiplies the five
loaves." On my pressing him to tell me how it was done, "Why, it would not
be a miracle," he answered, with a smile, "if we knew that. Are we not most
fortunate to live on only by help of miracles? _It is the mercy of God that
we are not consumed_." "You go quite beyond me," I said, "by taking that
ground. I am not so transcendently wise."

"Listen," he replied. "Riches are truly thorns, as the Gospel teaches us.
They prick us with a thousand troubles in acquiring them, with more cares
in preserving them, and with yet more anxieties in spending them; and, most
of all, with vexations in losing them.

"After all, we are only managers and stewards, especially if it is a
question of the riches of the Church, which are the true patrimony of
the poor. The important matter is to find faithful dispensers. Having
sufficient to feed and clothe ourselves suitably, what more do we want?
Assuredly, _that which is over and above these is of evil_.[6]

"Shall I tell you what my own feeling is? Well and good, but I must do so
in your ear. I know very well how to spend what I have; but if I had more
I should be in difficulty as to what to do with it. Am I not happy to live
like a child without care? _Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof_.
The more any one has to manage the longer the account he has to render. We
must make use of this world as though we were making no use of it at all.
We must possess riches as though we had them not, and deal with the things
of earth like the dogs on the banks of the Nile, who, for fear of the
crocodiles, lap up the water of the river as they run along its banks. If,
as the wise man tells us, _he that addeth knowledge addeth also labour_;
much more is this the case with the man who heaps up riches. He is like
the giants in the fable who piled up mountains, and then buried themselves
under them. Remember the miserable man who, as the Gospel tells us, thought
that he had many years before him in which to live at his ease, but to whom
the heavenly voice said: _Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of
thee; and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided_? In truth
happy is he only who lays up imperishable treasures in Heaven."

He would never allow himself to be called _poor_; saying, that any one who
had a revenue sufficient to live upon without being obliged to labour with
head or hands to support himself should be called _rich_; and such, he
said, was the case with us both.

To my objection that our revenues were nevertheless so very small that we
must be really considered poor, for little, indeed, must we be working if
our labour was not worth what we got from our bishoprics, he replied: "If
you take it in this way you are not so far wrong, for who is there who
labours in a vineyard and does not live upon its produce? What shepherd
feeds his flock and does not drink its milk and clothe himself with its
wool? So, too, may he who sows spiritual seed justly reap the small harvest
which he needs for his temporal sustenance. If then he is poor who lives by
work, and who eats the fruit of his labour, we may very well be reckoned
as such; but if we regard the degree of poverty in which our Lord and
His Apostles lived, we must perforce consider ourselves rich. After all,
possessing honestly all that is necessary for food and clothing, ought
we not to be content? Whatever is more than this is only evil, care,
superfluity, wanting which we shall have less of an account to render.
Happy is poverty, said a stoic, if it is cheerful poverty; and if it is
that, it is really not poverty at all, or only poverty of a kind that is
far preferable to the riches of the most wealthy, which are amassed with
difficulty, preserved with solicitude, and lost with regret."

Our Saint used to say that, as for the cravings of nature, he who is not
satisfied with what is really enough will never be satisfied. I wish that
I could give any just idea of his extraordinary moderation even in the use
of the necessaries of life. He told me once that when the time came for him
to lay down the burden of his episcopal duties and to retire into solitude,
there to pass the rest of his life in contemplation and study, he should
consider five hundred crowns a year great wealth; in fact, he would not
reserve more from either his patrimony or his Bishop's revenue, adding
these words of St. Paul: _Having food, and wherewith to be covered, let us_
(priests) _be content_.[7] He gave this as his reason. "The Church," he
said, "which is the kingdom of Jesus Christ, is established on foundations
directly opposed to those of the world, of which our Saviour said His
kingdom was not. Now, on what is the kingdom of this world founded? Listen
to St. John: All that is in the world is the _concupiscence of the flesh,
or of the eyes, and the pride of life_; that is to say, the pleasures
of the senses, avarice, and vanity. The Church then will be founded on
mortification of the flesh, poverty, and humility. Pleasures and honours
follow in the train of wealth; but poverty puts an axe to the roots of
pride and sensual enjoyments. Some, says David, blaming them, glory in the
multitude of their riches; and St. Paul exhorts the rich of this world not
to be high-minded.

"It is a perilous thing for humility and mortification to take up their
abode with wealth." This is why he wished for nothing but bare necessaries,
fearing that superfluity might lead him into some excess.

When I reminded him that if we had this superfluity we might give alms out
of it, as it is written, _Of what remaineth give to the poor_, he replied,
that we knew well enough what: we ought to do; but that we did not know
what we should do, and that it was always a species of presumption to
imagine ourselves able to handle live coals without burning ourselves,
seeing that even the Angel in the vision of the Prophet took them up with

[Footnote 1: 1 Tim. vi. 6.]
[Footnote 2: Job. xvii. 13.]
[Footnote 3: Ps. cxxxviii. 11.]
[Footnote 4: Ps. ci. 8.]
[Footnote 5: Georges Roland.]
[Footnote 6: Matt. v. 37.]
[Footnote 7: Tim. vi. 8.]


Our Blessed Father was so absolutely indifferent to the goods of this world
that I never heard him so much as once complain of the loss of almost all
his episcopal revenue, confiscated by the city of Geneva. He used to say
that it was very much with the wealth of the Church as with a man's beard,
the more closely it was clipped the stronger and the thicker it grew
again. When the Apostles had nothing they possessed all things, and when
ecclesiastics wish to possess too much, that too much is reduced to

His one hunger and thirst was for the conversion of souls, living in wilful
blindness to the light of truth which shines only in the one true Church.
Sometimes, he exclaimed, sighing heavily: "Give me souls, and the rest take
to Thyself." Speaking of Geneva, to which city, in spite of its rebellion,
he always applied terms of compassion and affection, such as "my dear
Geneva," or "my poor Geneva," he said to me more than once: "Would to
God that these gentlemen had taken such small remains of my revenue as
they have left to me, and that we had only as small a foothold in that
deplorable city as the Catholics have in La Rochelle, namely, a little
chapel in which to say Mass and perform the functions of our religion! You
would then soon see all these apostates come back to their senses, and we
should rejoice over the return to the Church of these poor Sunamites, who
are so forgetful of their duty."[1] This fond hope he always nourished in
his breast.

He used to say that Henry VIII. of England, who at the beginning of his
reign was so zealous for the Catholic faith, and wrote so splendidly
against the errors of Luther, that he acquired for that reason the glorious
title of Defender of the Faith, having, by yielding to his passion, caused
so great a schism in his kingdom, even had he desired at the close of
his life to return to the bosom of the Church which he had so miserably
abandoned, would, on setting to work to attain this most happy end, have
found the impossibility of recovering for the clergy and restoring to them
the property and wealth which he had divided among his nobles, a serious

"Alas!" our Blessed Father exclaimed, commenting upon this fact, "to think
that a handful of dust should rob Heaven of so many souls! The business of
every christian, and especially of the clergy, is the keeping of God's law.
The Lord is the portion of their inheritance and of their cup. He would
have made to them an abundant restitution of all that had been theirs, by
gentle but effective means. They whose thoughts are fixed upon the Lord
will be nourished by Him. The just are never forsaken nor reduced to beg
their bread; they have only to lift their eyes and their hopes to God and
He will give them meat in due season; for it is He who gives food to all
flesh. Moreover, it is much easier to suffer hunger with patience than to
preserve virtue in the midst of plenty. It is not every one who can say
with the Apostle: _I know how to abound, and I know how to suffer need_.[2]
A thousand fall on the left hand of adversity, but ten thousand on the
right hand of prosperity; for iniquity is the outcome of luxury, and the
sin of the cities of the plain had its origin in a superabundance of bread;
that is to say, in their wealth. To be frugal and devout is to possess a
great treasure."

[Footnote 1: Cantic. vi. 12.]
[Footnote 2: Philipp. iv. 12.]


Three virtues, he said, were necessary to constitute poverty of spirit:
simplicity, humility, and christian poverty. Simplicity consists in that
singleness of aim which looks only to God, referring to Him alone those
innumerable opportunities which come to us from objects other than Himself.
Humility is that conviction of our own inferiority and destitution which
makes the truly humble man regard himself as always an unprofitable
servant. Christian poverty is of three kinds. First, that which is
affective, but not effective. This can be practised in the midst of wealth,
as in the case of Abraham, David, St. Louis, and many other holy persons,
who, though rich in this world's goods, were ready in a moment to accept
poverty with cheerfulness and thankfulness if it should please God to send
it to them.

Second, effective but not affective poverty, which is a very unhappy
condition. Those who are weighed down by it feel all its distressing
consequences and are miserable because they cannot possess the many things
which they ardently desire.

Third, affective, united with effective poverty, which is recommended in
the Gospels, and which may happen to be our lot, either from birth or from
some reverse of fortune.

If we are reconciled to our condition in life, however humble, and bless
God Who has placed us in it, then we tread in the footsteps of Jesus
Christ, of His holy Mother, and of the Apostles, who all lived a life of

Another way of practising this poverty is to follow the counsels of Jesus
Christ, Who bids us _sell all that we have and give it to the poor_,
imitating our divine Master in that poverty which He embraced for us,
that we, through it, might be made rich. And never is this command more
practically and worthily obeyed than when the man who has abandoned all his
worldly goods for the sake of Christ, labours, not only in order to sustain
his own life, but that he may have the wherewithal to give alms.

Thus did the Apostle glory when he said: _For such things as were needful
for me, and them that are with me, these hands have furnished_.[1]

[Footnote 1: Acts xx. 34.]


To love our neighbour is not only to wish him well, but also to do him
all the good that it is in our power to do. If we fall short of this, we
deserve the reproach of St. James, addressed to those who, though they have
ample means for giving material aid to the poor, content themselves with
bare words of comfort.

The love of Blessed Francis for the poor was so intense that in their case
he seemed to become a respecter of persons, preferring them to the rich,
both in spiritual and in temporal matters. He was like a good physician who
in visiting the sick shows the most tender solicitude for those afflicted
with the most terrible diseases and lingers longest by their bedsides.

One day I had to wait my turn to go to confession to him for a very
long time, he being engaged in hearing a poor blind beggar woman. When
I afterwards expressed my surprise at the length of her confession, he
said: "Ah! She sees far more clearly the way to go to God than many whose
eyesight is otherwise perfect."

On another occasion, sailing with him on the lake of Geneva, I heard
the boatman calling him "Father," and addressing him with corresponding
familiarity. "Listen," he said to me, "to those good people. They are
calling me their Father; and, indeed, I do believe they love me as such.
Oh! how much more real happiness they give me than those who call me 'My


On one occasion I quoted that saying of Seneca: "He is truly great who
dines off earthenware as contentedly as if it were silver; but he is
greater still who dines off silver with as much indifference as if it were

"The philosopher," he said, "is right in his judgment; for the first feasts
on mere fancy, leading to vanity; but the second shows that he is superior
to wealth, since he cares no more for a precious metal than for clay.

"Yet, Oh! how ridiculous; how empty is all mere human philosophy! This same
philosopher who speaks so eloquently again and again of the contempt of
riches, was all his life immersed in them; and at his death left thousands
behind him. Does it not seem to you that, this being his own case, his
talking about poverty makes him like a cleric expatiating on the art of
war? We had far better listen to St. Paul, who speaks as a past master on
the subject of poverty, since he practised it so thoroughly that he chose
rather to live on what he could earn by the labour of his hands than on
what the preaching of the Gospel might bring in to him, as to the other
Apostles. Yes, we must needs listen to and believe St. Paul when he says
that he esteems all things as dung in comparison with the service of Jesus
Christ, counting as loss what he once held as gain."[1]

[Footnote 1: Philipp. iii, 8.]


Blessed Francis objected strongly to the use of the word _fortune_,
considering it unworthy of utterance by christian lips. The expressions
"fortunate," "by good fortune," "children of fortune," all common enough,
were repugnant to him. "I am astonished," he said once, "that Fortune, the
most pagan of idols, should have been left standing, when christianity so
completely demolished all the rest! God forbid that any who ought to be the
children of God's providence alone become children of fortune! and that
those whose only hope should be in Him put their trust in the uncertainty
of riches!"

He spoke yet more strongly of such as professing to be nailed with Jesus
Christ to the Cross and to glory only in His reproaches and sufferings, yet
were eager in heaping up riches, and, when amassed, in clinging fondly to
them. "For," he said, "the Gospel makes christian blessedness to consist
in poverty, contempt, pain, weeping, and persecutions; and even philosophy
teaches us that prosperity is the stepmother of true virtue, adversity its

I asked him once how it was that we are so ready to have recourse to
God when the thorn of affliction pierces us, and so eager in asking for
deliverance from sickness, calumny, famine, and such like misfortunes. "It
is," he said, "our weakness which thus cries out for help, and it is a
proof of the infirmity which encompasses us; for as the best and firmest
fish feed in the salt waters of the open sea, those which are caught in
fresh water being less pleasing to the taste, so the most generous natures
find their element in crosses and afflictions, while meaner spirits are
only happy in prosperity.

"Moreover," he continued, "it is much easier to love God perfectly in
adversity than in prosperity. For tribulation having nothing in itself
that is lovable, save that it is God's gift, it is much easier to go by it
straight to the will of God, and to unite ourselves to His good pleasure.
Easier, I say, than by prosperity, which has attractions of its own that
captivate our senses, and, like Dalila, lull them to sleep, working in us
a subtle change, so that we begin insensibly to love for its own sake the
prosperity which God sends us, instead of bestowing all our grateful love
on God Who sends it, and to Whom all thanks and praise are due!"


Feeling at one time troubled and perplexed in mind as to the bearing
of these two virtues upon one another, and as to the right manner of
practising each, so that one should never run counter to the other, I
carried my difficulties to our Blessed Father, who settled them at once in
the following words; "We must," he said, "in this matter draw a careful
distinction between persons who occupy positions of dignity and authority,
and have the care of others, and those private individuals who have no one
to look after but themselves. The former must deliver their chastity into
the keeping of their charity; and if that charity is real and true it will
not fail them, but will serve as a strong wall of defence, both without and
within, to their chastity. On the other hand, private individual's will do
better to surrender the guardianship of their charity to their chastity,
and to walk with the greatest circumspection and self-restraint. The reason
of this is that those in authority are obliged by the very nature of their
duties, to expose themselves to the dangers inseparable from occasions: in
which, however, they are assisted by grace, seeing they are not tempting
God by any rashness.

"Contrariwise, those private individuals who expose themselves to danger
without any legitimate excuse run great risk of tempting God and losing His
grace; since it is written that _he that loveth danger_ (still more he that
seeketh it) _shall perish in it_."[1]

[Footnote 1: Eccles. iii. 27]


I can never express to you, or convey a right idea, of the high esteem in
which he held purity of heart. He said that chastity of body was common
enough even among unbelievers and among persons addicted to other vices;
but that very few people could truly say, my heart is pure.

I do not say that by this purity of heart he meant the never being troubled
by sinful desires, for that would be making the virtue of chastity to
consist in insensibility; and what do those who are not tempted know about
the matter?

No; he placed it in never yielding to unlawful affections. To these we
should rather give the name of _infections_, since they infect the will,
and interfere with the safe custody of the heart, which is the well-spring
of the spiritual life.


Speaking of the humility and chastity of the Blessed Virgin the holy
Prelate said: "These two virtues, although they have to be continually
practised, should be spoken of so rarely that this rarity of speech may
rank as silence. The reason is that it is difficult to mention these
virtues or to praise them either in themselves or in any individual who
possesses them, without in some way sullying their brightness.

"1. There is, in my opinion, no human tongue which can rightly express
their value, and to praise them inadequately is in a way to disparage them.

"2. To praise humility is to cause it to be desired from a secret self-love
and to invite people to enter its domain through the wrong door.

"3. To praise humility in any individual is to tempt him to vanity and to
flatter him dangerously; for the more he thinks himself humble the less
he will really be so; and possibly when he sees that others consider him
humble he will think that he must be so.

"4. As regards chastity, to praise it in itself is to leave on the mind a
secret and almost imperceptible image of the contrary vice, and therefore
to expose the mind to some danger of temptation. There is a sting hidden in
the honey of such praise.

"5. To praise it in any individual is in a measure to expose him to the
danger of falling. It is to put a stumbling-block In his way. It is
to inflate that pride which under a fair disguise may lure him over a

"6. We must never be content to rely upon our hitherto untarnished purity
of life, but must always fear, since innocence is a treasure which we carry
in a vessel of glass, easily broken.

"7. In a word, the virtues of humility and chastity always seem to me like
those subtle essences which evaporate if they are not kept very tightly

"8. However, although I consider it wise very seldom to speak of these two
virtues, it is wise to practise them unceasingly, humility being one of the
most excellent virtues of the soul, and purity that fair white adornment of
the body which is its honour, and which, like a lily growing among thorns,
brings forth a wonderful flower, whose fruit is honour and riches.

"9. Nevertheless, I do not mean that we are to be so scrupulous as _never_
to dare to speak of these virtues; not even to praise them when occasion
warrants or demands our doing so. No, indeed. In one sense they can never
be sufficiently praised, nor ever sufficiently valued and cultivated. What
I mean is that we gain little by praising them. Our words in praise of a
virtue are of little account in comparison with the smallest fruit; that
is, with the least of the acts of a virtue.

"I add this because I know you attach too much importance to my words, and
take them as literally as if they were oracles."


Our Blessed Father, speaking of the virtue of modesty, and dilating upon
one of its chief properties, namely, its extraordinary sensitiveness to
the slightest injurious influence, made use of two beautiful comparisons:
"However pure, transparent, and polished the surface of a mirror may be,
the faintest breath is sufficient to make it so dull and misty that it is
unable to reflect any image. So it is with the reputation of the virtuous.
However high and well established it may be, according the words of
wisdom: _Oh! how beautiful is the chaste generation!_ [1] a thoughtless,
unrestrained glance or gesture is quite sufficient to give occasion to a
slanderous tongue to infect that reputation with the serpent's venom,
and to hide its lustre from the eyes of the world, as clouds hide the
brightness of the sun.

"Again, look at this beautiful lily. It is the symbol of purity; it
preserves its whiteness and sweetness, amid all the blackness and
ruggedness of the encircling thorns. As long as it remains untouched its
perfume is delicious and its dazzling beauty of form and colour charms
every passer-by; but, as soon as it is culled, the scent is so strong as
to be overpowering, and should you touch the petals they lose their satin
smoothness as well as all their pure and white loveliness."

[Footnote 1: Wisd. iv. I.]


Since our Blessed Father was not, like the martyrs, privileged to offer his
body, both by living and dying, as a victim for God, he found out, with the
ingenuity of love, a method of self-humiliation and self-sacrifice to be
carried out after his death.

When quite young and still pursuing his studies at Padua, falling
dangerously ill, and his life being despaired of, he begged his tutor to
see that when he was dead his body should be given into the hands of the
surgeons for dissection. "Having been of so little use to my neighbour in
life," he said, "I shall thus at least, after my death, be able to render
him some small service."

Happily for us, God in His great mercy spared this precious life, being
contented, as in the case of the sacrifice of Isaac, with the offering of
His faithful servant's will and with his generous contempt for his own

A motive which urged Blessed Francis to the above resolution, besides his
desire of self-humiliation and immolation, was the hope of putting an end
to the scandalous practice then prevailing among the surgical and medical
students at Padua of secretly by night going to the cemeteries to disinter
newly-buried bodies. This they did when they had failed to obtain those
of criminals from the officers of justice. Innumerable evils, quarrels,
and even murders resulted from this practice, and the indignation of the
relatives and friends of the deceased persons whose corpses were stolen may
be imagined. By setting the example of a voluntary surrender of his own
body for dissection our Blessed Father hoped to diminish such orders.


It was of course impossible for Blessed Francis to be ignorant of the high
esteem in which his piety was held, not only by his own people, but by
all who knew him. This knowledge was, however, as may well be believed,
a source of pain to him, and often covered him with confusion. He seldom
spoke on the subject, for true humility rarely speaks, even humbly, of
itself. Yet on one occasion, when more than usually worried by hearing
himself praised, he allowed these words to fall from his lips: "The truth
is that these good people with all their eulogiums, and expressions of
esteem, are sowing the seed of a bitter fruit for me to gather in the end.
When I am dead, imagining that my poor soul has gone straight to Heaven,
they will not pray for it, and will leave me languishing in Purgatory. Of
what avail then will this high reputation be to me? They are treating me
like those animals which suffocate their young by their close pressure and
caresses, or like the ivy which drags down the wall it seems to crown with

I will now give you some examples of his humility. He was sometimes told
that people had spoken ill of him. Instead of excusing or defending
himself, he would say cheerfully, "Do they say no more than that?
Certainly, they cannot know all, they flatter me, they spare me: I see very
well that they rather pity than envy me, and that they wish me to be better
than I am. Well! God be praised for this, I must correct my faults, for if
I do not deserve reproof in this particular matter, I do in some other. It
is really a mercy that the correction is given so kindly." If anyone took
up his defence and declared that the whole accusation was false, "Ah!
well," he would say, "it is a warning to make me careful not to justify
it, for surely they are doing me a kindness by calling my attention to the
dangers of this rock ahead."

Then, noticing how indignant we all were with the slanderers, "What," he
would exclaim, "have I given you leave to fly into a passion on my account?
Let them talk--it is but a storm in a teacup, a tempest of words that will
die away and be forgotten. We must be sensitive indeed if we cannot bear
the buzzing of a fly! Who has told us that we are blameless? Possibly these
people see our faults better than we see them ourselves, and better
than those who love us do. When truths displease us, we often call them
slanders. What harm do others do us by having a bad opinion of us? We ought
to have a bad opinion of ourselves. Such persons are not our adversaries,
but rather our allies, since they enlist themselves on our side in the
battle against our self-love. Why be angry with those who come to our aid
against so powerful an enemy?"

It happened once that a certain simple-minded woman told our saint bluntly
that what she had heard of him had caused her to loose all esteem for
him. Blessed Francis replied quietly that her straightforward words only
increased his fatherly affection for her, as they were an evidence of great
candour, a virtue he highly respected.

The woman proceeded to declare that the reason she was so greatly
disappointed in him was because she had been told that he had taken her
adversary's part in a law-suit instead of acting as the father of all and
siding with none. "Nay," rejoined the Saint, "do not fathers interfere in
the quarrels of their children, judging between right and wrong? Besides,
the verdict of the court should have convinced you that you were in the
wrong, since it was given against you; and had I been one of the judges I
must have decided as they did."

The woman protested that injustice had been done to her, but the Saint
quietly and patiently reasoned with her and assured her that although it
was natural that she should feel angry at first, yet, when the bandage of
passion had fallen from her eyes, she would thank God for having deprived
her of that which in justice she could not have retained.

This person finally admitted that she had been in the wrong, but enquired
if Blessed Francis was really not annoyed at her having lost her high
opinion of him, having formerly regarded him as a Saint. He assured her she
was wrong in having done so, and that, far from being annoyed, his esteem
for her was all the greater on account of this, her correct judgment.
"Believe me," he went on to say, "I am speaking from a sense of truth, and
not out of false humility, when I maintain that my friends over-rate me.
The fact is, they try to persuade themselves that I really am what they so
ardently desire me to be. They expose me to the danger of losing my soul
by pride and presumption. You, on the contrary, are giving me a practical
lesson in humility, and are thus leading me in the way of salvation, for it
is written, _God will save the humble of heart._"


He disliked expressions of humility unless they clearly came from the
heart, and said that words of this kind were the flower, the cream, and the
quintessence of the most subtle pride, subtle inasmuch as it was hidden
even from him who spoke them. He compared such language to a certain
sublimated and penetrating poison, which to the eye seems merely a mist.

Those who speak this language of false humility are lifted up on high,
whilst in thoughts and motives they remain mean and low. He considered
similar fashions of speech to be even more intolerable than the words of
vain persons who are the sport of their hearers, and whose empty boasting
makes them to be like balloons, the plaything of everybody. A mocking laugh
is sufficient to let all the wind which puffs them out escape. Words of
humility coming merely from the lips, and not from the heart, lead surely
to vanity, though by what seems the wrong road. Those who utter them are
like people who take their salary gladly enough, but insist on first making
a show of refusing and of saying that they want nothing.

Even excuses proffered in this manner accuse and betray the person who
offers them. The truly humble of heart do not wish, to _appear_ humble, but
to _be_ humble. Humility is so delicate a virtue that it is afraid of its
own shadow, and cannot hear its own name uttered without running the risk
of extinction.


Blessed Francis set the highest value upon the virtue of humility, which he
called the foundation of all moral virtues, and together with charity, the
solid basis of true piety.

He used to say that there was no moral excellence more literally christian
than humility, because it was not known even by name to the heathen of old.
Even of the most renowned among ancient philosophers, such virtues as they
possessed were inflated with pride and self-love.

Not every kind of humility pleased him. He was not willing to accept any as
true metal until he had put it to many a test and trial.

1. He required in the first place that there should be genuine
self-knowledge. To be truly humble we must recognise the fact that we
come from nothing, that we are nothing, that we can do nothing, that we
are worth nothing, and in fine that we are idle do-nothings, unprofitable
servants, incapable of even forming a single good thought, as of ourselves.
Yet self-knowledge, he said, if it stood alone, however praiseworthy in
itself, would only render those who possessed it the more guilty if they
did not act up to it, in order to become better; because moral virtue being
in the will, and mere knowledge only in the understanding, the latter alone
cannot in any way pass current as true virtue.

2. He even had some doubt of humility though residing in the will, because
it is quite possible to misuse it, and to turn humility itself into vanity.
Take for instance those who, having been invited to a banquet, take at
once possession of the very lowest place, or of one which they know to
be inferior to that due to their rank. They may do this on purpose to be
invited to go higher amidst the applause of the company, and with advantage
to themselves. He called this a veritable entering into vanity, and through
the wrong door: for the truly humble do not wish to appear humble, but only
vile and lowly. They love to be considered as of no accounts and, as such,
to be despised and rebuffed.

3. Even this did not satisfy him. He was not content with mere natural
virtue, but insisted that humility must be Christian, given birth to,
and animated by charity. Otherwise he held it in small esteem, refusing
to admit that among christians it suffices to practise virtues in pagan
fashion. But what is this infused and supernatural humility? It is to love
and delight in one's own humiliation, for the reason that by its means we
are able to give glory to God, Who accepts the humility of His servants,
but puts far away from His heart the proud in spirit.

4. Again, our Saint taught that in striving to please God by bearing
humiliations, we should aim at accepting such as are not of our own choice
rather than those that are voluntary. He used to say that the crosses
fashioned by us for ourselves are always of the lightest and slenderest,
and that he valued an ounce of resignation to suffering above pounds'
weight of painful toil, good though it might be in itself, undertaken of
one's own accord.

5. Quiet endurance of reproaches, contempt, or depreciation, was, in his
opinion, the true touch-stone of humility, because it renders us more
like to Jesus Christ, the Prototype of all solid virtue, Who humbled
and annihilated Himself, making Himself obedient unto death, even the
ignominious death of the Cross.

6. He commended voluntary seeking after humiliations, yet he insisted upon
great discretion being practised in this search, since it easily happens
that self-love may subtly and imperceptibly insinuate itself therein.

7. Next he considered that the highest, or more properly speaking,
deepest degree of humility is that of taking pleasure and even delight in
humiliations, reputing them to be in truth the greatest of honours, and
of being just as much ill-content with honours as vain persons are with
contempt and contumely.

In illustration of this he would quote Moses, who preferred the reproach of
Israel to the glories of a kingdom offered to him by Pharaoh's daughter; of
Esther, who hated the splendid ornaments with which they decked her to make
her pleasing in the eyes of Assuerus; of the Apostles, whose greatest joy
was to suffer shame and reproach for the name of Jesus; and of David, who
danced before the Ark amid a crowd of buffoons and mountebanks, and who
exulted in thus making himself appear contemptible in the eyes of Michol,
his wife.

8. Blessed Francis called humility a descending charity, and charity an
ascending humility. The former he compared to those streams which come down
from the heights and flow down into the valleys. The latter to the slender
column of smoke spoken of in the Canticle[1] which rises up towards Heaven,
and is composed of all the sweet essences of the perfumer.

9. The Saint next gives a rare lesson on the measure or means of gauging
humility. Obedience is to be its source and touch-stone. This teaching he
grounded on the saying of St. Paul: that our Lord _humbled Himself, making
Himself obedient_.[2] "Do you see," he would say, "by what scale humility
must be measured? By obedience. If you obey promptly, frankly, cheerfully,
without murmuring, expostulating, or replying, you are truly humble. Nor
without humility can one be easily and really obedient, for obedience
demands submission of the heart, and only the truly humble look upon
themselves as inferior to all and as subject to every creature for the love
of Jesus Christ. They ever regard their fellow-men as their superiors, they
consider themselves to be the scorn of men and the off-scouring of the
world. Thus these two virtues, like two pieces of iron, by friction one
with the other, enhance each other's brightness and polish. We are humble
only in as far as we are obedient, and in fine we are pleasing to God only
in as far as we have charity."

10. He recommended all to endeavour to steep their every action in the
spirit of humility, as the swan steeps in water each morsel she swallows,
and how can this be done except by hiding our good works as much as we can
from the eyes of men, and by desiring that they may be seen only by Him
to Whom all things are open, and from Whom nothing can be hid. Our Saint
himself, urged by this spirit, said that he would have wished, had there
been any goodness in him, that it might have been hidden from himself as
well as from all others until the Judgment Day, when the secrets of all
hearts will be revealed. The Gospel itself exhorts us to observe this
secrecy, for it warns us to serve God in secret, and by hiding our virtues,
our prayers, our almsgiving, fittingly to worship Him, Who is a hidden God.

11. Blessed Francis did not, however, desire that we should put ourselves
to the constraint and discomfort of avoiding good actions simply because of
their being praiseworthy in the eyes of others. What he approved of was a
noble, generous, courageous humility, not that which is mean, timid, and
cowardly. True, he would not that anything should be done for so low a
motive as to win the praise of men, but at the same time he would not have
an undertaking abandoned for fear of its success being appreciated and
applauded. "It is only very weak heads," he said, "that are made to ache by
the scent of roses."

12. Above all things, he recommended people not to speak either in praise
or blame of themselves save when doing so is absolutely necessary, and
then with great reticence. It was his opinion (as it was Aristotle's) that
both self-praise and self-blame spring from the same root of vanity and
foolishness. "As for boasting, it is," he said, "so ridiculous a weakness
that it is hissed down by even the vulgar crowd. Its one fitting place is
in the mouth of a swaggering comedian. In like manner words of contempt
spoken of ourselves _by_ ourselves, unless they are absolutely heartfelt
and come from a mind thoroughly convinced of the fact of its own misery,
are truly the very acme of pride, and a flower of the most subtle vanity;
for it rarely happens that he who utters them either believes them himself
or really wishes others to believe them: on the contrary, the speaker
is mostly only anxious rather to be considered humble, and consequently
virtuous, and seeks that his self-blame should redound to his honour.
Self-dispraise in general is no more than a tricky kind of boasting. It
reminds me of oarsmen who turn their backs on the very place which with all
the strength of their arms they are striving to reach."

The above sentiments of Blessed Francis with regard to humility are very
striking, but it is much more worthy of note that he himself carried his
principles strictly into practice. His actions were so many model lessons
and living precepts on the subject. O God! how pleasing must the sacrifice
of his humility have been in Thine eyes which look down so closely upon the
humble, but regard the proud only from afar.

[Footnote 1: Cant. iii. 6.]
[Footnote 2: Philipp. ii. 8.]


The great lesson which on all possible occasions Blessed Francis inculcated
on those who were fortunate enough to come into contact with him, and to
treat with him concerning their soul's welfare, was that which our Saviour
teaches. _Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart._[1] Not,
however, that he attached the meaning to the words meek, and humble, often,
but very erroneously, given to them.

By meekness he did not understand a kind of honeyed sweetness, too often
mixed with a good deal of affectation and pretention. A wolf's heart may
be hidden under the fleece and gentle seeming of a lamb, and underneath an
outside covering of humility may lurk secret arrogance, such that while
appearing to lie down to be trodden under men's feet, those humble after
this fashion may by pride in their own pretended state of perfection be
putting all men under their own feet. Our Lord's words, _If any man will
come after Me, let him deny himself take up his cross, and follow Me_,
Blessed Francis, in one of his letters, explained as follows:

"It is to walk side by side with our crucified Bridegroom, to abase
ourselves, to humble ourselves, to despise ourselves even to the death of
all our passions; yea, I say, even to the death of the Cross. But observe,
my dear daughter, that this abasement, this humility, this contempt of
ourselves, must, as I have told you before, be practised gently, quietly,
persistently, and not only sweetly, but gladly and joyously."

[Footnote 1: Matt. xi. 20.]


Whatever perfection the just man may recognize in himself, he is like the
palm tree, which, says the Psalmist, the higher it rears its lofty head the
deeper down in the earth it casts its roots.

And certainly, since all our perfection comes from God, since we have no
good or perfect gift which we have not received from the Father of Lights,
we have no reason to glorify ourselves.

Truly, we can do nothing of ourselves as of ourselves, all our sufficiency,
in good, proceeding from God. Our vanity is such that as soon as we begin
to suspect we are not guilty, we regard ourselves as innocent, forgetting
that if we do not fail in one direction we do in another, and that, as St.
Gregory says, our perfection, in proportion to its advancement, makes us
the better perceive our imperfections.

Without purity how should we recognise impurity? It is light which makes
us understand what darkness is. Many people not discerning in themselves
certain particular vices think that they possess the opposite virtues, and
are deceived.

Again, seeing themselves freed from some earthly passions they imagine
themselves to be clothed in heavenly affections; and thus their ill-advised
heart is darkened, they feed upon wind, and walk on in the vanity of their

Our Blessed Father, reflecting one day upon the condition of his soul
and feeling it to be enjoying great peace owing to its detachment from
creatures, made his own the sentiments of the great Apostle, who, though
not feeling himself guilty of anything, yet did not therefore consider
himself justified, and who forgetting the past pressed on always
farther and farther, never thinking that he had yet reached the goal of

I must read you the passage in which he expresses this view of himself:--

"I find my soul a little more to my liking than usual, because I see
nothing in it which keeps it attached to this world, and because it is more
alive to the things of the next, to its eternal joys. Ah! if I were but as
closely and consciously united to God as I am dissevered and alienated from
the world, how happy I should be! And you, too, my daughter, how rejoiced
you would be! But I am speaking of my feelings, and my inward self; as
regards the exterior, and, worst of all, as regards my deportment and
behaviour, they are full of all sorts of contradictory imperfections. The
good which I wish to do, I do not do; but nevertheless I know well that
truly and with no pretence, I do wish to do it, and with a most unchanging
will. But, my Daughter, how can it be that out of such a will so many
imperfections show themselves as are continually springing up within me?
Certainly, they are not of my will, though they be _in_ my will, and _on_
my will. They are like the mistletoe which grows and appears on a tree and
in a tree, although it is not of the tree, nor out of the tree."

[Footnote 1: Philipp. iii. 13.]


Although to excuse ourselves for our faults is in many circumstances
blameworthy, whilst in general to accuse ourselves of them is laudable,
still when self-accusation is carried too far, it is apt to run into
affectation, making us wish to pass for something different from what we
really are, or, with scrupulosity, making us persuade ourselves that we are
what we describe ourselves to be.

It is true that the just man is his own accuser and that, knowing his
faults, he declares them simply, in order to be cured of them by wholesome
corrections. It is also true that it is a bad thing to excuse oneself, an
excuse being always worse than the fault committed, inasmuch as it shows
that we think we were right in committing the fault; a persuasion which is
contrary to truth.

If our first parents had not excused themselves, the man throwing the blame
on the woman, the woman on the serpent, and if, on the contrary, confessing
their sin, they had repented, they would have crushed the serpent while in
the act of wounding them, and God, who had invited them to this repentance
by His loving rebuke, _Adam, where art thou?_ would in His mercy, have
surely pardoned them.

This was what made David pray that God would set a watch before his mouth,
and on his lips, lest he should be led to utter evil words. By evil words
he means excuses which we invent to cover our sins.[1]

Our Blessed Father advises us as follows: "Be just, and without mature
consideration, neither excuse nor accuse your poor soul, lest if you excuse
it when you should not, you make it insolent, and if you accuse it lightly,
you discourage it and make it cowardly. Walk simply and you will walk
securely." I once heard him utter these striking words: "He who excuses
himself unjustly, and affectedly, accuses himself openly and truly; and he
who accuses himself simply and humbly, deserves to be excused kindly and to
be pardoned lovingly."

There is a confession which brings confusion, and another which brings
glory. Confession, says St. Ambrose, is the true medicine for sin to him
who repents of wrong doing.

[Footnote 1: Psalm cxl. 3, 4.]


It is hardly likely that Blessed Francis could have been ambitious of the
empty honours attached to an office at court since he did not even trouble
himself to keep up his own reputation, except in as far as it might serve
to advance the glory of God, which was not only the great but the one
passion of his heart.

When a very serious accusation against him was carried to the court, he
tells us: "I remained humble and silent, not even saying what I might have
said in my defence, but contenting myself with bearing my suffering in my
heart. The effect of this patience has been to kindle in my soul a more
ardent love of God, and also to light up the fire of meditation. I said to
God: Thou art my Protector, and my Refuge in this tribulation, it is for
Thee to deliver me out of it. O God of truth, redeem me from the calumny of

He wrote as follows on the same subject to a holy soul who was far more
keenly interested in what concerned him than in what affected herself:
"After all, Providence knows the exact amount of reputation which is
necessary to me, in order that I may rightly discharge the duties of the
service to which I have been called, and I desire neither more nor less
than it pleases that good Providence to let me have."


He had no desire that we should make light of our reputation, or be
careless about it, but he wished us to guard it for the service of God
rather than for our own honour; and more to avoid scandal than to glorify

He used to compare reputation to snuff, which may be beneficial if used
occasionally and moderately, but which clouds and injures the brain when
used in excess; and to the mandrake which is soothing when smelt at a
distance, but if brought too close, induces drowsiness and lethargy.

In his Philothea he devotes one chapter to the subject of guarding our
reputation, while at the same time practising humility.[1] He did not,
however, content himself with teaching by precept; he went much further,
and continually impressed his lesson on others by his example. On one
occasion, writing to me about some slanderous reports which had been spread
in Paris against him, on account of conscientious and holy advice which he
had given to virtuous people who had sought counsel of him, he expressed
himself in these words: "I am told that they are cutting my reputation to
pieces in Paris, but I hope that God will build it up again, stronger than
ever, if that is necessary for His service. Certainly I do not want it
except for that purpose, for, provided that God be served, what matters
whether it be by good or evil report, by the exaltation, or by the
defamation of our good name?"

"Ah," he said to me one day, "what is a man's reputation, that so many
should sacrifice themselves to this idol? After all,--it is nothing but
a dream, a phantom, an opinion, so much smoke; praise of which the very
remembrance perishes with its utterance; an estimate which is often so
false that people are secretly amused to hear themselves extolled for
virtues, whose contrary vices they know to be dominating them, and blamed
for faults from which they are happily quite free. Surely those who
complain of being slandered are over-sensitive! Their little cross, made of
words, is so light that a breath of wind carries it away. The expression,
'stung me,' meaning 'abused me,' is one that I have never liked, for
there is a great deal of difference between the humming of a bee, and its
stinging us! We must indeed have sensitive ears, if mere buzzing stings

"Truly, those were clever people who invented the proverb: 'A good name is
better than riches'; preferring reputation to wealth, or, in other words,
vanity to avarice. Oh, my God! how far removed is this from the spirit
of faith! Was there ever any reputation more torn to pieces than that of
Jesus Christ? With what insults was He not overwhelmed? With what calumnies
was He not loaded? And yet the Father has given Him a name which is above
every name, and exalted Him the more, the more he was humbled. Did not the
Apostles also come forth rejoicing from the presence of the Council where
they had received affronts--for the name of Jesus?

"Oh, it is a glorious thing to suffer in so worthy a cause! But too often
we will have none but open persecutions, so that our light may shine in the
midst of darkness, and that our vanity may be gratified by a display of our
sufferings. We should like to be crucified gloriously in the midst of an
admiring crowd. What! think you that the martyrs when they were suffering
their cruel tortures, were praised by the spectators for their patience? On
the contrary, they were reviled and held up to execration. Ah! there are
very few who are willing to trample under foot their own reputation, if so
be, they may thereby advance the glory of Him Who died an ignominious death
upon the Cross, to bring us to a glory which has no end."

[Footnote 1: Part iii. chap. vii.]


Blessed Francis was once asked if we ought not to oppose calumny with the
weapons of truth, and if it was not as much our duty to keep, for God's
sake, our good name, as our bodily strength. He answered that on such
occasions many virtues were called into exercise, each claiming precedence
over the other.

The first is _truth_ to which the love of God and of ourselves in God,
compels us to bear testimony. Nevertheless that testimony has to be calm,
gentle, kindly, given without Irritation or vehemence, and with no anxiety
about consequences. Our Saviour, when He was accused of having a devil,
answered quite simply, "_I have not a devil._"[1]

If you should be blamed for any scandalous fault, of which, however, you
know you are not guilty, say candidly and quietly that, by the grace
of God, you are innocent of such a sin. But, if you are not believed,
_humility_ now claims her right and bids you say that you have indeed many
greater faults unknown to the world, that you are in every way miserable
and that if God did not sustain you in your weakness, you would commit far
greater crimes than you are accused of.

This sort of humility is in no way prejudicial to truth, for was it not
from the depths of true humility that David cried out saying, that if God
had not aided him his soul would have dwelt in hell.[2]

Should the tempest of evil speaking continue, _silence_ steps to the front,
and offers her calm resistance to the storm, following the teaching of
the Royal Prophet, who says: _And I became as a dumb man not opening his

Answering is the oil which feeds the lamp of calumny, silence is the water
which extinguishes it. If silence is unavailing, then _patience_ reminds
you that it is her turn to act, and, coming forward; shelters you with her
impenetrable shield; patience, as Holy Scripture tells us, makes our work

If we be still assailed, we must call to our aid _constancy_, which is a
kind of double-lined buckler of patience, impervious to the most violent

But should evil tongues, growing yet sharper and keener, cut to the very
quick, _longanimity_, which is an unfailing, undying patience, is ready to
enter the lists, and eager to help us. For when persecution, instead of
yielding to our patience, is only the more irritated thereby, like a fire
which burns more fiercely in frosty weather, then is the time for us to
practise the virtue of longanimity.

And last of all comes _perseverance_, which goes with us to the very end
and without which the whole network of virtues would fall to pieces; for
_it is the end which crowns the work_, and _he who perseveres to the end
shall be saved_.

Indeed, who can say how many more virtues claim a place in this bright
choir? Prudence, gentleness, modesty of speech, and many another, circle
round their queen, holy charity, who is indeed the life and soul of them
all. Charity it is which bids us bless those who curse us, and pray for
those who persecute us; and this same charity not unfrequently transforms
our persecutors into protectors and changes slanderous tongues into
trumpets to sound our praise.

[Footnote 1: John viii. 49.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm xciii. 17.]
[Footnote 3: Id. xxxvii. 14.]


On one occasion somebody quoted in his presence the maxims of a very great
and very holy person (St. Teresa) on the way to attain perfection.

  Despise the world. Despise no man.
  Despise yourself. Despise being despised.

"Be it so," observed our Blessed Father, "as regards the three first
sayings, but, in regard to the fourth, to my mind, the very highest degree
of humility consists in loving and cherishing contempt, and in being glad
to be despised. David so acted, when he showed himself pleased to be
despised as a buffoon by his own wife Michol. St. Paul, too, gloried in
having been scourged, stoned, and looked upon as a fool, the off-scouring
and very refuse of the world. The Apostles came forth rejoicing from the
presence of the Councils in which, for the love of Jesus, they had been
loaded with opprobrium, contumely, and contempt. A really humble man
despising himself, is only too glad to find others ready to agree with him,
and to help him to humble himself. He receives reproaches as God's good
gift, and deems himself unworthy of aught else."

He had something, too, to say about the first three maxims. Taking the
world in the sense of the universe, it is, he said, a great stage, on
which are shown the wonders of Almighty God, all of Whose works are very
good--nay, are perfect. But, even taking the word "world" in the sense in
which it is mostly used in Scripture, meaning the company of the wicked, he
said, that we should indeed despise their vices, yet not themselves; for
who knows but that they will in the end, be converted? How many vessels of
contempt have been, by the change of the right hand of God, transformed
into vessels of honour?

To despise no one, which is the second dictum, seems at first sight to
contradict the first, if, by "the world" be meant the vicious and not
merely their vices. It is certainly very right to despise no one, but it
is still more reasonable and more advantageous to ourselves, who wish to
advance in perfection, to value and esteem all men, because created by God
to His image, and because fitted for partaking of His grace and of His

The third maxim, which tells us to despise ourselves, also needs some
explanation. We ought not under pretence of humility to slight and despise
the graces which God has given us. To do so would be to throw ourselves
over the precipice of ingratitude in order to avoid perishing in the
pitfall of vanity, "Nothing," said he, "can so humble us before the mercy
of God, as the multitude of his benefits; nothing can so abase us before
the throne of His justice, as the countless number of our misdeeds. We need
never fear that the good things God has given us will feed our pride, as
long as we remember that whatever there may be _in_ us that is good, it is
not _of_ us."


I was complaining to him one day of a great injury which had been done to
me. He answered, "To anybody but you I should try to apply some soothing
balm of consolation, but your circumstances, and the pure love which I bear
to you, dispense me from this act of courtesy. I have no oil to pour into
your wound, and, indeed, were I to affect to sympathise with you, it might
only increase the pain of the wound you have received. I have nothing but
vinegar and cleansing salt to pour in, and I must simply put in practice
the command of the Apostle: _Reprove, entreat_.[1] You finished your
complaint by saying that great and tried patience was needful to enable a
man to bear such attacks in silence. Certainly, your patience is not of so
high a stamp, since you reserve to yourself the privilege of lamentation!"

"But, Father," I replied, "you see it is only into your heart that I pour
out my sorrow. When a child is troubled to whom should it turn if not to
its kind father?" "You, a child, indeed; and for how long do you mean to
go on clinging to your childhood? Is it right that one who is the father
of others, one to whom God has given the rank of a Bishop in His Church,
should play the child? When we are children, says St. Paul, we may speak as
children, but not when we are become men. The lisping which pleases us in a
baby is altogether unsuitable for a sturdy boy. Do you wish me to give you
milk and pap instead of solid food? Am I like a nurse to breathe softly on
your hurt? Are not your teeth strong enough to masticate bread, the hard
bread of suffering? Have you forgotten how to eat bread? Are your teeth
set on edge by eating sour grapes? It is a fine thing, indeed, for you to
complain to an earthly father, you, who ought to be saying with David to
your heavenly Father: _I was dumb and I opened not my mouth, because thou
hast done it_.[2]

"'But,' you will say, 'it is not God but wicked men who have done this to

"Ah, indeed! and do you forget that it is what is called the permissive
will of God which makes use of the malice of men, either to correct you or
to exercise you in virtue? Job says: _The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken
away_. [3] He does not say: The devil and the thieves took my goods and my
dear ones from me: he sees only the hand of God which does all these things
by such instruments as it pleases Him to use. You seem unfortunately to
have no wish to rank yourself with him who said that the rod and staff with
which God struck him brought him consolation; [4] and that he was like a
man helpless and abandoned, yet, nevertheless, free from the dead;[5] that
he was as one deaf and dumb, who paid no heed to the insults poured into
his ears; [6] that he was humbled in the dust, and kept silence even from
good words, which might have served to justify him and to defend his

"'But, Father,' you continue, 'how is it that you have become so harsh, and
have changed your gentleness, as Job says to Almighty God, into cruelty?
Where is your unfailing compassion?' I answer, my compassion is as great
and as sincere as ever; for God knows how much I love you, since I love you
more than myself, and how I should reproach myself if I allowed my heart to
be hardened against you. It is, however, too clear that the injury you have
received is resented by you, since you complain of it. We do not usually
complain of what pleases us, quite the reverse, we are glad and rejoice and
expect to be congratulated, not pitied. Witness the great parables of the
finding of the lost sheep and the lost groat.'

"'Well,' you reply, 'and do you really want me to tell you that black looks
exhilarate me, and that I can bear smoke puffed in my face without even

"O man of little faith and of most limited patience! What then of our
Gospel maxims as to giving our cheek to the smiter, and our beard to those
who pluck it out; what of the beatitude of the persecuted; of the giving
our coat to him who takes away our cloak; of blessing those who curse us;
of a cordial and hearty love of our enemies? Are these sayings, think you,
only curiosities to be put in a cabinet; are they not rather those seals of
the Spouse, which He desires us to set upon our hearts and our arms, on our
thoughts and on our works?

"Well, well, I pardon you from indulgence, to use the expression of the
Apostle, but, on condition that you will be more courageous for the future,
and that you will shut up tightly in the casket of silence all like favours
which God sends to you, so as not to let their perfume escape, and that
you will render thanks in your heart to our Father in Heaven, Who deigns
to bestow upon you a tiny splinter from the Cross of His Son. What! you
delight in wearing a heavy cross of gold upon your breast, and you cannot
bear the weight of one light as is your own upon your heart, but must needs
try to rid yourself of it by complaining! Then, again, even when it is
gone, you must needs talk about what you have put up with, and would like
me to consider you patient merely because you do not openly resent the
wrong done you. As if the great virtue of patience consisted only in the
not revenging yourself, and not much more, as it really does, in uttering
no word of complaint.

"Moreover, it appears to me that you are quite wrong in so much as talking
about being _patient_ under injuries such as you have suffered. Patience is
too distinguished a virtue to be needed for so trivial an act--the lesser
good qualities of moderation, forbearance, and silence would amply suffice.
_In silence and In hope shall your strength be_."[7] So he dismissed me,
ashamed of myself, it is true, but, like the giant of fable, strengthened
by having fallen. On leaving him I felt as if all the insults in the world
would henceforth fail to make me utter one single word of complaint. I was
much consoled afterwards by coming across, in one of his letters, the same
remark about moderation and forbearance as he had then addressed to me.
He writes: "Nothing can have a more tranquillizing effect upon us in this
world than the frequent consideration of the afflictions, necessities,
contempts, calumnies, insults, and humiliations which our Lord suffered
from His birth to His most painful death. When we contemplate such a
weight of bitterness as this, are we not wrong in giving to the trifling
misfortunes which befall us, even the names of adversities and injuries?
Are we not ashamed to ask a share of His divine patience to help us to bear
such trifles as these, seeing that the smallest modicum of moderation and
humility would suffice to make us bear calmly the insults offered to us?"

[Footnote 1: 2 Tim. iv. 2]
[Footnote 2: Psalm xxxviii. 10.]
[Footnote 3: Job i. 21.]
[Footnote 4: Psalm xxii. 4.]
[Footnote 5: Psalm lxxxvii. 5, 6.]
[Footnote 6: Psalm xxxvii. 15.]
[Footnote 7: Isaiah xxx. 15.]


He used to say that a harvest of virtues could be gathered in from a crop
of affronts and injuries, because they offer us in abundance opportunities
of making such acts as the following:

1. Of _justice_; for who is there that has not sinned and consequently has
not deserved punishment? Has anyone offended you? Well, think how often
you have offended God! Surely, therefore, it is meet that creatures, the
instruments of His justice, should punish you.

2. But perhaps you were justly accused? Well, if so, simply acknowledge
your fault, asking pardon of God as well as of men, and be grateful to
those who have accused you, even though they have done it in such a manner
as to add unnecessary bitterness to your suffering. Remember that medicines
are none the less salutary for being nauseous.

3. But may-be you were accused falsely? If so, calmly and quietly,
but without hesitation, bear witness to the truth. We owe this to our
neighbours, who might, if we were silent, believe the charge brought
against us, and thus be greatly disedified.

4. Yet, if, after this, people persist in blaming you, abandon any further
defence of yourself, and conquer by silence, modesty, and patience.

5. _Prudence_ has its own part to play in the conflict; for there is no
better way of dealing with insults than by treating them with contempt.
He who gives way to anger looks as if he acknowledged the truth of the

6. _Discretion_, too, comes to the aid of prudence by counselling

7. _Courage_ in all its power and grandeur raises you above yourself.

8. _Temperance_ bridles your passions and curbs them into submission.

9. _Humility_ will make you love and value your humiliation.

10. _Faith_ will, as St. Paul says, stop the mouths of lions, and more than
this, it will, he says, set before our eyes for our loving contemplation
and imitation Jesus Christ Himself, overwhelmed with insults and calumnies,
yet silent, unmoved, as one who hears not and is dumb.

11. _Hope_ will hold out before you an imperishable crown, the reward of
your trials and sufferings which endure but for a moment.

12. _Charity_, last of all, will come to you and abide with you--charity,
patient and sweet, benign and yielding, believing all, hoping all, enduring
all, ready and willing to suffer all.

The more we value our eternal salvation the more heartily shall we welcome


Blessed Francis laid great stress upon the necessity of patience when
we are importuned. "Yet," he would say, "patience seems almost too
great a power to invoke in this matter. In reality a little gentleness,
forbearance, and self-control ought to suffice. Still, when we speak of
patience it must not be as if it were to be employed only in the endurance
of really great evils, for, while we are waiting for these notable
occasions that occur rarely in a lifetime, we neglect the lesser ones. We
imagine that our patience is capable of putting up with great sufferings
and affronts, and we give way to impatience under the sting or bite of an
insect. We fancy that we could help, wait upon, and relieve our neighbour
in long or severe sickness, and yet we cannot bear that same neighbour's
ill-bred manner, and irritating moods, his awkwardness and incivility,
and above all his _importunity_, especially if he comes just at the
wrong moment to talk to us about matters which seem to us frivolous and

"We triumphantly excuse ourselves for our impatience on these occasions by
alleging our deeps sense of the value of time; that one only thing, says an
ancient writer, with regard to which avarice is laudable.

"But we fail to see that we employ this precious time in doing many things
far more vain and idle than in the satisfying the claims of our neighbour,
and possibly less important than those about which he talks to us,
occasioning what we call loss of time.

"When we are conversing with others we should try to please them and to
show that their conversation is agreeable to us, and when we are alone we
should take pleasure in solitude. Unfortunately, however, our minds are
so inconsistent that we are always looking behind us, like Lot's wife. In
company we sigh for solitude, and in solitude, instead of enjoying its
sweets, we hanker after the company of others."


One of Blessed Francis' most frequent sayings was: He who complains, seldom
does so without sinning. Now, you are anxious to know what exactly he
meant by this, and if it is not allowable to complain to superiors of
wrongs which have been done us, and when we are ill, to seek relief from
suffering, by describing our pains to the physician, so that he may apply
to them the proper remedies.

To put this interpretation on the words of Blessed Francis is to overstrain
their meaning. The letter killeth, and needs to be interpreted by the
spirit that quickeneth, that is, to be taken gently and sweetly.

Our Blessed Father condemns complaining when it borders upon murmuring. He
used to say that those who thus complained sinned, because our self-love
always magnifies unduly any wrongs done to ourselves, weighing them in the
most deceitful of balances, and applying the most extravagant epithets to
things which if done by us to others we should pass over as not worth a

He did not consider it at all wrong to claim from a court of justice,
quietly, calmly, and dispassionately, reparation of injuries done to our
property, person, or honour. He has, indeed, devoted a whole chapter in his
Philothea[1] to demonstrating that we may, without failing in humility or
charity, do what is necessary for the preservation of our good name. But
human weakness is such that it is difficult even in a court of justice to
keep our temper and retain a proper equanimity: hence the proverb that, in
a hundred-weight of law, there is not so much as an ounce of good nature.

It was also his wish that when sick we should state what ails us quite
simply and straightforwardly to those who can relieve us, always
remembering that God commands us to honour the physician.[2] To Philothea
he says: "When you are ill offer your sufferings, pains, and weakness to
the service of our Lord, and entreat Him to unite them to the torments
which He endured for you. Obey the physician; take medicine, food, and
other remedies for the love of God; remembering the gall which He accepted
for love of you. Desire to recover your health that you may serve Him, but,
if He so will, do not refuse to linger long upon your bed of pain, so as to
obey Him; in fine, be ready to die if that is His pleasure, that you may
praise and enjoy Him."[3]

It was his opinion that when we complain, however justly, a certain amount
of self-love is always at the bottom of the complaint, and that a habit of
grumbling is a positive proof of our being too tender of ourselves and too

After all, of what use are complaints? They do but beat the air and serve
to prove that if we suffer wrong it is with regret, with sadness, and not
without some desire of revenging ourselves. An ungreased wheel makes the
most noise in turning, and in like manner, he who has the least patience is
the first to grumble.

We must remember, however, that all men deceive themselves. Those who
complain do not mean to be considered impatient. On the contrary, they
tell you that if it were not this particular thing, they would speak and
act differently; but that, as it is, if God did not forbid vengeance they
would assuredly take it in the most signal manner. Poor Israelites! really
brought out of Egypt, but yet still hankering after the leeks and garlic of
that miserable country! Truly such feebleness of mind is pitiable, and most
unworthy of a soul avowedly consecrated to the service of the Cross of
Jesus Christ.

It is not that we are absolutely forbidden to complain under great
sufferings of body or mind, or under great losses. Job, the mirror of the
patient, uttered many complaints, yet without prejudice to that virtue
which made him so highly esteemed by God, and renders him famous in all
ages. It would not only be unwise, but possibly a sin, so to conceal bodily
suffering--under the pretext of being resolved not to complain--as to
refuse to have recourse to either physician or remedies, and thereby to
risk bringing ourselves down to the gates of the grave.

Even God, the All-Perfect, does not refrain from pouring forth His
complaints against sinners, as we know from many parts of Holy Scripture.
We must then in this matter preserve a just medium, and although it behoves
us sometimes to suffer in silence, yet at other times we must make known
our sufferings, since _that suffering is truly the most wretched which,
amid torments, has no voice_.[4]

The Son of God, the pattern of all perfection, wept and cried aloud at the
grave of Lazarus and on the Cross, showing that He pities our sufferings
and shares our griefs. The measure of our complainings must be fixed by
discretion, which St. Anthony calls the regent and ruler of the kingdom of
virtues, appointed to guard it from the encroachments of sin, ever striving
to gain dominion there.

Our Blessed Father gives us the following lesson on the subject: "We must,"
he says, "abstain from a but little noticed, yet most hurtful imperfection,
against which few people guard themselves. This is, that when we are
compelled to blame our neighbour or to complain of his conduct, which
should be as seldom as possible, we never seem to get done with the matter,
but go on perpetually repeating our complaints and lamentations; a sure
sign of irritation and peevishness and of a heart as yet destitute of true
charity. Great and powerful minds only make mourning about great matters,
and even these they dismiss as quickly as possible, never giving way to
passion or fretfulness."

[Footnote 1: Part iii. chap. vii.]
[Footnote 2: Eccles. xxxviii. 1, 12.]
[Footnote 3: Part iii. chap. 3.]
[Footnote 4: Virgil, AEneid I.]


The similitude of the nest of the halcyon or kingfisher, supposed to float
on the sea, which our Saint describes so well and applies so exquisitely in
one of his letters, was the true picture of his own heart. The great stoic,
Seneca, says that it is easy to guide a vessel on a smooth sea and aided by
favourable winds, but that it is in the midst of tempests and hurricanes
that the skill of the pilot is shown.[1]

So it is with the soul, whose fidelity and loyalty towards the Divine Lover
is well tested by sufferings and sorrows.

The more he was crossed, the more he was upset, and, like the palm tree,
the more violently the winds beat against him, the deeper and stronger
roots he threw out. His own words express this truth so perfectly as to
leave no doubt on the subject. He says: "For some time past the many secret
contradictions and oppositions which have invaded my tranquil life have
brought with them so calm and sweet a peace that nothing can be compared to
it. Indeed, I cannot help thinking that they foretell the near approach of
that entire union of my soul with God, which is not only the greatest but
the sole ambition and passion of my heart."

Oh! blessed servant of Jesus Christ, how absolutely you practised that
teaching which you impress so strongly on us in your Theotimus, in the
words of blessed Brother Giles.

"One to one! one soul to one only love! one heart to one only God!"

To that only God, the King eternal, Immortal, invisible, be honour and
glory for ever and ever! Amen.

[Footnote 1: _Senec, De Providentia_, cap. iv.]


One day he was visiting a sick person who, in the midst of intense
suffering, not only showed great patience in all her words and actions,
but plainly had the virtue deeply rooted in her heart. "Happy woman," said
Blessed Francis, "who has found the honey-comb in the jaws of the lion!"

Wishing, however, to make more certain that the patience she showed was
solid and real, rooted and grounded in Christian charity, and such as to
make her endure her sufferings for the love and for the glory of God alone,
he determined to try her. He began to praise her constancy, to enlarge upon
her sufferings, to express admiration at her courage, her silence, her good
example, knowing that in this way he would draw from her lips the true
language of her heart.

Nor was he deceived, for she, sincere and absolutely patient Christian that
she was, answered him: "Ah! Father, you do not see the rebellious struggles
of all my senses and feelings. In the lower region of my soul everything is
in confusion and disorder, and if the grace and fear of God were not to
us as a tower of strength I should long ago have altogether given way and
rebelled against God. Picture me to yourself as like the Prophet whom the
Angel carried by one hair of his head; my patience, as it were, hangs on a
single thread, and were it not for the mighty help God is to me I should
long ere now have been in hell.

"It is not then my virtue but the grace of God in me which makes me show
so much courage. My own part in the matter is but pretence and hypocrisy.
Were I to follow my own impulses I should moan, struggle, break out into
passionate and bitter words, but God restrains my lips with bit and bridle,
so that I dare not murmur under the blows dealt by His hand which I have
learnt through His grace to love and honour."

Our Blessed Father, on leaving her sick-room, said to those who were with
him, "She has, indeed, true and Christian patience. Instead of pitying her
for her sufferings we ought rather to rejoice over them, for this high
virtue is only made perfect in infirmity. But do you notice how God hides
from her own eyes the perfection which He is giving her? Her patience is
not only courageous, but loving and humble; like pure balm, which, when
unadulterated, sinks to the bottom of the water into which it is cast. Be
careful, however, not to repeat to her what I have just said to you lest,
by doing so, you should excite in her movements of vanity, and spoil the
whole work of grace, whose waters only flow through the valley of humility.

"Let her peacefully possess her soul in patience, for she is at peace even
in this extremity of bitterness."


Violent sicknesses either pass quickly or they carry us to the grave; slow
maladies drag wearily on and exercise the patience of the sufferers, nor
less that of those who tend them.

Our Blessed Father says on the subject: "Long sicknesses are good schools
of mercy for those who wait upon the sick and of loving patience for those
who suffer.

"They who wait upon the sick are at the foot of the Cross with our Lady and
St. John, whose compassion they imitate; the sick man himself is on the
Cross with our Saviour, Whose Passion he imitates.

"But how can we imitate either this compassion or this Passion if we do
not suffer from the motive of the love of God? For the Blessed Virgin and
St. John, the beloved Disciple, were moved by a compassion as much more
sorrowful than ours, as their love for the Crucified, their own dearest
Lord, was greater than ours can be. It was at the foot of the Cross that
the sword of grief pierced Mary's soul, and it was there that the beloved
disciple drank that chalice of bitterness, which, after permitting him to
share the glories of Thabor, the Saviour predicted should be his."

The whole life of a true Christian is one long period of suffering. Those
who endure not with Jesus Christ, are not fit to reign with Him. "O soul
in grace," says our Blessed Father, "thou art not yet the spouse of Jesus
glorified, but of Jesus crucified. This is why the rings, necklaces, and
other ornaments which He gives you, and with which He is pleased to adorn
you, are crosses, nails, and thorns; and the marriage feast He sets before
you gall, hyssop, and vinegar. It is in Heaven we shall possess the rubies,
diamonds, and emeralds, the wine, the manna, and the honey." The world is a
vast quarry in which are hewn out and shaped those living stones which are
to build up the heavenly Jerusalem, as the Church sings:

   _Tunsionibus, pressuris,
      Expoliti lapides
    Suis cooptantur locis,
     Per manus Artificis:
   Disponuntur permansuri
      Sacris aedificiis._[1]

  Thou too, O Church, which here we see,
    No easy task hath builded thee.
  Long did the chisels ring around!
    Long did the mallet's blows rebound!
  Long worked the head, and toiled the hand!
    Ere stood thy stones as now they stand.

[Footnote 1: Office of the Dedication of a Church.]


As regards our Blessed Father's patience in time of sickness, I myself was
with him in one only of his illnesses, but others, who saw him in many
and were frequent witnesses of his patience, gentleness, and absolute
indifference to suffering, tell us marvels on that subject.

For my part, on the one occasion when I saw him stretched upon his bed,
suffering with so much endurance and sweetness, the sight at once recalled
to me what St. Catherine of Genoa tells us of a certain soul in Purgatory.
This poor soul she represented as so perfectly united to God by charity
that it was physically unable to utter the slightest complaint, or to have
the faintest shadow of a desire, which was not absolutely in conformity
with the divine will. Such souls, she says, wish to be in Purgatory exactly
as long as God shall please, and this, with a will so contented and so
constant, that for nothing in the whole world would they be elsewhere
unless it were His will. This is exactly how our Blessed Father suffered,
without in any way losing heart, because of the services which he might
have been able to render to God and his neighbour had he been in health. He
wished to suffer because to do so was the good pleasure of God, Who held
the keys of his life and of his death, of his health and of his sickness,
and of his whole destiny.

If he was asked whether he would take this or that, physic or food, whether
he would be bled or blistered, or the like, he had but one answer to give:
"Do with the patient what you please, God has put me at the disposal of the
doctors." Nothing could be more simple or obedient than his behaviour, for
he honoured God in the physicians, and in their remedies, as He Himself has
commanded us all to do.

He always told the doctors and attendants exactly what was the matter
with him, neither exaggerating his malady by undue complaints, nor making
his suffering appear less than it really was by a forced and unnatural
composure. The first he said was cowardice, the second dissimulation.
Even although the inferior and sensible part of his soul might be under
the pressure of intense pain, there always flashed out from his face, and
especially from, his eyes, rays of that calm light which illumined the
superior and reasonable part of his nature, shining through the dark clouds
of bodily affliction. Hence the weaker his body, the stronger became his
spirit, enabling him to say with the Apostle:

  _Gladly, therefore, will I glory in my infirmities,
  That the power of Christ may dwell in me._[1]

[Footnote 1: 2 Cor. xii. 9.]


"The Cross," Blessed Francis says, "is composed of two pieces of wood,
which represent to us two excellent virtues, necessary to those who desire
to be fastened to it with Jesus Christ, and on it to live a dying life, and
on it to die the death which is life. These two great virtues most due to
Christians are humility and patience."

He wished, however, that those two virtues should be rooted and grounded
in charity, that is to say, not only be practised in charity, that is, in
a state of grace, without which they are of no value for Heaven, but also
from the motive of charity. This is how he expresses himself:--

"Divine love will teach you that in imitation of the great Lover we must be
on the Cross in company with humility, deeming ourselves unworthy to endure
anything for Him Who endured so much for us; and in company with patience,
so as not to wish to come down from the Cross, not even all our life long
if so it pleases the Eternal Father.

"The motto of Blessed Teresa was, To suffer or to die; for divine love had
attached this faithful servant of Jesus crucified so closely to the Cross
that she wished not to live, save that she might have opportunities of
suffering for Him.

"The great and seraphic St. Francis considered that God had forgotten
him and lovingly complained when he had passed a day untouched by any
suffering; and just as he called poverty his mistress, so he called pain
his sister."

Our Blessed Father's motto was "To love or to die." In his Treatise on the
Love of God he cries out: "To love, or to die! To die and to love! To die
to all other love in order to live to Jesus' love, that we may not die
eternally, but that living in Thy eternal love, O Saviour of our souls, we
may eternally sing, Vive Jesus, Live Jesus. I love Jesus. Live Jesus, Whom
I love! I love Jesus, Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen."[1]

[Footnote 1: Book xii, c. 13.]


It was one day reported very seriously to Blessed Francis as though it
were some misdemeanor, that one of his penitents who was accustomed to wear
on her breast a rich diamond ornament, had had the diamonds made up into
a cross which she wore in the same manner as before, and that this was a
cause of scandal to certain persons. "Ah! he cried, how true it is that the
Cross is an occasion of scandal to some, and of edification to others! I do
not know who advised this lady to do what she has done, but for my part I
am much edified, and only wish that all the gew-gaws and trinkets worn by
women could be altered in the same holy manner. That would indeed be to
make vessels of the Tabernacle out of their mirrors."[1]

Among his letters I came across lately and with much pleasure, one which
I think must have been written to this very lady. In it he says: "When I
last had the pleasure of seeing you, dear madam, you were wearing outwardly
on your heart a cross; love it fervently, I beseech you. It is all gold if
you look at it with loving eyes. On one side it is true that you see the
Beloved of your heart, dead, crucified amid nails and thorns; but on the
other side you will find a cluster of precious stones ready to adorn the
crown of glory which awaits you, if only, meanwhile, you wear lovingly the
crown of thorns with your King who willed to suffer so much that He might
enter into His joy."

To a lady advanced in years and distinguished by her piety, who was
living in my diocese, and whom, out of reverence and affection, he used
to call his mother, he wrote as follows, when the infirmities of old
age were pressing heavily upon her: "I see very plainly that you must
from henceforth accustom yourself to the maladies and infirmities which
declining years bring with them. Ah, dear Lord! What happiness for a soul
dedicated to God, to be much tried by suffering, before quitting this life!
My dearest mother, how can we learn the lesson of generous and fervent love
save amid thorns, crosses, languor, and faintness, and more especially
when these sufferings are prolonged and lingering. Our dear Saviour showed
us the measure of His boundless love by that of His labours, and of His
sufferings. Show, my dear mother, your love to the Bridegroom of your heart
on the bed of pain; for it was on that bed that He fashioned your heart,
even before it came into existence, He beholding it as yet only in His
divine plan. Ah! this Divine Saviour has reckoned up all your pains, all
your sorrows, and has paid with His Precious Blood for all the patience
and the love which you need in order rightly to direct your labours to His
glory and to your own salvation. Content yourself with calmly desiring to
be all that God wills you to be."

[Footnote 1: Exod. xxxviii. 8.]


Our Blessed Father had a special reverence for the picture of Magdalen at
the foot of the Cross, calling it sometimes the library of his thoughts.
Perhaps this representation was before his mind's eye, when just before he
rendered up his soul to God he murmured these words: _Wash me yet more from
my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin_.[1] "Oh!" he exclaimed, when he was
looking one day at this picture in my house at Belley, "how happy, and how
profitable an exchange this penitent made! She bestowed tears on the Feet
of Jesus Christ, and in return those Feet gave back to her Blood, but Blood
that washed away all her sins, for Christ has cleansed us from every stain
in His Blood, and by the sprinkling of this hyssop has made us, coal-black
though we were, white as snow! Oh, gracious rain made by God to fall upon
His inheritance, how sweet, how much to be desired thou art!"

"Magdalen seeks our Saviour while she holds Him. She demands Him of
Himself. She does not see Him in the form she looked for: therefore,
unsatisfied, she seeks Him away from Himself.

"She expected to see Him in His robe of glory, not in the poor garb of a
gardener; nevertheless she knew that it was He when He uttered her name

"My dear sister, my daughter, it is our Lord in the clothing of a gardener
whom you meet every day in one place or another, and in the various
mortifications which present themselves to you.

"You wish He would offer you grander mortifications. Oh! my God! the
grandest are not the best. Do you not believe that He says to you also
_Mary, Mary?_ Ah! before you see Him in His glory, He wishes to plant in
your garden many flowers, small and lowly indeed, but such as He loves.
That is why He wears a gardener's dress.

"May our hearts be for ever united to His Heart, and our wills to His good

[Footnote 1: Psalm l. 4.]
[Footnote 2: John xx. 16.]


An ecclesiastic in Blessed Francis' diocese, had, because of his vicious
and scandalous life, been sent to prison. After a few days' sojourn there
he testified the deepest repentance, and with tears and promises of
amendment entreated the officers of the prison to allow him to be taken to
the Holy Prelate, who had already pardoned many of his offences, that he
might at his feet plead again for forgiveness.

This request was at first refused, as the officers considered that his
scandalous life deserved punishment, if only as an example to others,
and they knew that with Blessed Francis, to see a sinner was to pity and
forgive him.

At last, however, they yielded to the priest's passionate entreaties, and
he was taken before his Bishop. Throwing himself on his knees before the
Holy Man, he implored mercy, declaring that he would lead a new life,
and set an example of all that was edifying, whereas before he had given
nothing but scandal. Blessed Francis on his part knelt down before the
culprit, and with many tears, addressed these remarkable words to him; "I,
too," he said, "ask you to have pity upon me, and upon all of us who are
priests in this diocese, upon the Church, and upon the Catholic, Apostolic,
and Roman religion, the honour of which you are ruining by your scandalous
life. For that life gives occasion to the adversaries of our Faith, who
are always on the watch like dragons to detect our slightest failings, to
condemn us. For a priest to sin, I tell you, is to give occasion to devils
to mock at the lives of our clergy, and to blaspheme our Holy Faith, I
ask you also to have pity on yourself, and on your own soul which you are
losing for all eternity, and to seek anew God's favour, I exhort you in the
name of Jesus Christ to return to God by a true repentance, I conjure you
to do this by all that is most holy, and sacred in Heaven, or on earth, by
the Blood of Jesus Christ which you profane, by the loving-kindness of the
Saviour, whom you crucify afresh, by the Spirit of Grace against whom you
are rebelling." These remonstrances, or rather the Spirit of God speaking
by the mouth of this zealous Pastor, had such effect that the guilty man
was by this change of the Right Hand of the Most High converted into a
perfectly different being, and became as notable an example of virtue as
he had been an occasion of scandal.

Again--There was in his diocese a certain ecclesiastic who for very grave
faults, and for the scandal occasioned by them, was not only imprisoned and
treated while in prison with the greatest severity, but moreover, after
regaining his liberty, remained for six months suspended from all
ecclesiastical functions.

Our Blessed Father most unwillingly yielded to the entreaties of the
officers of justice not in any way to interfere in the matter, but to let
the law take its course, and to leave the offender in their hands to be
treated with exceptional rigour.

So little, however, did this mode of dealing with the criminal answer,
that, though while in prison he had been tractable, humble, lavish of
promises of amendment, and apparently penitent, when once he had shaken off
his fetters he relapsed into all his old evil habits, and passed from bad
to worse. The authorities were in fine constrained to deprive him of his
benefice, and to banish him from the diocese.

A few years later a very similar case occurred in which the officers showed
the same unwillingness to permit the intervention of Blessed Francis, and
this from no want of respect or love for him, but, as before, from a fear
lest his gentleness and charity should hinder the course of justice.

In this case, however, the holy Bishop was firm. "If," he said, "you forbid
him to appear before me, you will not forbid me to appear before him. You
do not wish him to come out of prison, suffer me then to go to prison with
him, and to be the companion of his captivity. We must comfort this poor
brother, who entreats us for help. I promise you that he shall not leave
the prison except with your leave."

Accompanied by the officers of justice he then proceeded to the prison.
No sooner did he see the poor man kneeling humbly before his Bishop, and
accusing himself of his sins, than the holy Prelate embraced him tenderly,
and turning to his gaolers said: "Is it possible that you do not see that
God has already pardoned this man? Is there any condemnation for one who is
in Christ Jesus? If God justifies him, who shall condemn him? Certainly not

Then, turning to the culprit, he said: "Go in peace, my brother, and sin no
more, I know that you are truly penitent."

The officials protested that the man was a hypocrite, and like that other
suspended priest would himself soon show that they were right. "It is,
however, possible," replied the Saint, "that had you treated that other
priest with lenity, he, too, would have truly repented; beware, then, lest
his soul should one day be required at your hands. For my part, if you will
accept me as this man's bail, I am ready to pledge my word for his good
behaviour. I am certain that he is sincerely repentant, and even if he is
deceiving me, he will do more injury to himself than to me, or others."

The guilty man, bursting into tears, declared himself willing to undergo
any penance that might be imposed upon him, and even to give up his
benefice of his own accord, if the Bishop should judge this to be the
proper course.

"I should be much grieved if you were to take that step," replied Blessed
Francis, "the more so as I hope that, just as the steeple in falling
crushed the church, so now being set up again it will make it more
beautiful than before."

The officials gave way, the prison doors were thrown open, and after a
month's suspension, _a divinis_, the penitent resumed all the duties of his
sacred office. Thenceforth he lived so holy and exemplary a life as fully
to verify the predictions of his holy Bishop, who, when these two memorable
instances, one of perversion and the other of conversion, were once
afterwards discussed before him, said: "It is better by gentleness to make
penitents than by severity to make hypocrites."

I will now relate some other instances of Blessed Francis' extraordinary
gentleness and of its softening effect upon others.

He had made himself surety for a considerable sum of money for one of his
friends, who, at the time when payment was due, happened to be in Piedmont
levying troops for the service of His Highness the Duke of Savoy.

The creditor becoming impatient for the discharge of the debt, applied to
the good Bishop, and insisted upon his making the money good, paying no
attention whatever either to his gentle remonstrances, or to his assurances
that the debtor, though unable at present to leave his troops, would do so
as soon as was consistent with his duty to his Prince and his country, and
that meantime his regular payment of the interest, and the knowledge that
he was worth a hundred times more than the sum owing, ought surely to
satisfy the creditor.

Blessed Francis remained perfectly calm and unmoved amid the storm of
invectives and reproaches that followed this remonstrance, and which were
accompanied by furious demands reiterated again and again, that he himself
as surety should repay the money.

At last, speaking with incredible gentleness, the Saint said: "Son, I am
your Pastor. Can you as one of my flock, have the heart to take the bread
out of my mouth in place of helping to feed me? You know that I am much
straitened in circumstances, and have really only barely enough for my
maintenance. I have never had in my possession the sum which you demand of
me, but for which, out of charity, I made myself surety: do you wish to
seize for it my goods, rather than those of the real debtor? Well, if so,
I have some patrimony. I give it up to you: there is my furniture. Turn it
all out into the public square, and sell it. I put myself absolutely into
your hands to do as you please. I only ask of you to love me for God's
sake, and not to offend Him in any way by anger, hatred, or scandal. If you
will do this I am content."

The only reply to this was a fresh outburst of furious invectives and
accusations, to which our Blessed Father replied with unalterable serenity:
"Sir, since my indiscretion in making myself surety for my friend is the
cause of your anger, I will with all the haste possible do what I can to
satisfy you. At the same time, I wish you to know that had you plucked
out one of my eyes, I would have looked as affectionately at you with the
other, as at the dearest friend I have in the world."

The creditor retired, covered indeed with confusion, but still muttering
injurious words, and calling the holy Bishop a hypocrite, a bigot, and the
like. Blessed Francis immediately sent an account of the affair to the real
debtor, who came as quickly as was possible and at once discharged the
debt. The creditor, full of shame and repentance, hastened to ask pardon of
our Blessed Father, and he, receiving the prodigal with open arms, treated
him ever afterwards with special tenderness, calling him his _friend

Again, when he was in Paris in 1619, having gone there with the Cardinal of
Savoy, who wished to be present at the marriage of his brother, the Prince
of Piedmont, with Madame Christine of France, the King's sister, our
Blessed Father was told that a man of tolerably good position professing
the so-called Reformed Religion wished to see him.

Introduced into the Bishop's apartment, the Protestant, without the
smallest sign of reverence, or even courtesy, addressed him in these words:

"Are you what they call the Bishop of Geneva?"

"Sir," replied our holy Prelate, "that is my title, though in that city
I am not so much in request as I am in the other parts of the diocese
committed to my charge."

"Well, I should just like to know from you, who are regarded everywhere as
an apostolic man, whether the Apostles were in the habit of going about in

Our Blessed Father, in telling me this story, owned that he was somewhat
taken aback by the suddenness of this attack! Collecting his thoughts,
however, and remembering the case of St. Philip the Deacon, who, though not
the Apostle of that name, was undoubtedly an apostolic man, and who went
up into the chariot of Queen Candace's eunuch, he answered quietly that
they did so when convenience required it, and the occasion for doing so
presented itself.

"I should be very glad," replied the man, scornfully, "if you could show me
that in Scripture." The Bishop quoted the instance to which we have just
referred. His opponent, not noticing the fact of this not being St. Philip
the Apostle, retorted, "But this carriage was not his own, it belonged
to the eunuch, who invited him to come up into it," "I never told you,"
answered Francis, "that the carriage was his own. I only said that when
the occasion presented itself the first preachers of the Gospel rode in
carriages." "But not in gilded coaches such as yours, sir," returned the
Protestant, "nor drawn by such splendid horses, nor driven by a coachman in
such superb livery. Why, the King himself has nothing better! This is what
I complain of; and this it is in you which scandalizes me. And you, above
all, who play the Saint, and whom the papists look upon as such. Fine
Saints, forsooth, who go to Paradise so much at their ease!"

Blessed Francis, seeing at once where the shoe pinched, answered gently,
"Alas, sir, the people of Geneva who have seized upon the property
belonging to my See have cut me down so close as regards money that I have
barely enough to live upon in the most frugal way. As to a carriage, I have
never had one, nor money enough to buy one." "Then that splendid carriage,
which is, so to speak, regal, in which I see you every day driving about
the city is not your own?" rejoined the antagonist. "Certainly not,"
replied the Bishop, "and you are quite right in calling it regal, for it
belongs to His Majesty, and is one of those set apart by him for people
who, like myself, are mere attendants of the Princes of Savoy. The royal
livery worn by the servants ought to have shown you this!" "Now, indeed,"
said the Protestant, "I am satisfied, and I esteem you. I see that you
are in the right, and that, notwithstanding, you are humble." After some
further remarks he put some questions as to the birth and manner of life of
the Saint, and was so perfectly contented with his replies that he quitted
him with expressions of esteem and affection, and ever afterwards held him
in the highest respect.

Again, preaching during an Advent and Lent at Grenoble, not only a great
concourse of Catholics flocked to hear him, but also such numbers of
Protestants of the Geneva following that their ministers became alarmed and
held meetings to decide what measures should be taken to avert a storm,
which threatened desolation to their strongholds and was fast emptying
their conventicles. They decided at last on a personal conflict with their
opponent, choosing one of their most furious pastors, a man of violent
temper and bitter tongue, to argue with Blessed Francis, and, as they
expected, to worst him in a controversy. The holy Bishop, who had already
had much practice and success in this kind of warfare at Thonon, Ternier,
and Gaillard, the bailiwicks of his diocese which he had brought back into
the bosom of the True Church, cheerfully agreed to the proposal. In answer
to the remonstrances of his friends, and especially of one gentleman of
Belley, a man of the greatest probity and piety, who painted the Protestant
ministers in the blackest colours, and told the Bishop that insults would
literally be heaped upon him, he replied, "Well, that is exactly what we
want; this contempt is just what I ask. For how great is the glory to
Himself that God will derive from my confusion!" On his friends reminding
him that he would be exposing his sacred office to derision, "What of
that?" replied the Bishop, "did not our Saviour suffer shame for us--were
not insults heaped upon Him?"

"Oh," said the other, "you aim too high." "To tell you the truth," said
our Saint, "I am hoping that God will give me the grace to endure insults
without end, for when we are finely humbled He will be gloriously exalted.
You will see conversion upon conversion following the train of this affair,
a thousand falling on the left hand and ten thousand on the right, God is
wont at all times to make our infamy redound to His honour. Did not the
Apostles come forth rejoicing from those assemblies in which they had
suffered contumely for the name of Jesus? Take courage, God will help us;
those who hope in Him never lack any good thing and are never confounded."

Was it possible to carry patience further than this? Doubtless, had the
meeting taken place, the envenomed darts of heresy would have glanced aside
from the spotless, shining shield of Faith carried by Blessed Francis, but
the devil, fearing to be worsted in the fight, suggested so many prudent
reasons to the Protestant Minister's friends, who, in reality, had their
doubts about both his virtue and his capacity for conducting the conference
that they got it forbidden by the Lieutenant of the King, though himself at
that time a heretic.

Another striking example of patience. A person of some influence and
consideration once applied to Blessed Francis asking him to obtain an
ecclesiastical preferment for a certain Priest. The Bishop replied that
in the matter of conferring benefices he had, of his free will, tied his
own hands, having left the choosing of fitting subjects to the decision
of a board of examiners, who were to recommend the person to be appointed
after due examination of the merits and talents of the candidates. As for
himself, he said, he simply presided over the meeting. Should, however, the
gentleman's friend present himself as a candidate, he, the Bishop, would
promise to bear the recommendation in mind. The petitioner felt piqued at
this answer, and quite losing his temper, replied to the Bishop in the most
disrespectful and even insulting manner. The gentle firmness with which
his anger was met only infuriated him the more, and he eventually lost all
command over himself. It was in vain that the Bishop tried to soothe him by
proposing to examine the claimant privately. This had no effect.

The Saint then said gently but gravely: "Do you then wish me to give the
charge of my sheep blindfolded and to the first comer? Ask yourself if
there is reasonableness in such a request as you are making?"

But not even this appeal to his reason turned the flood of the man's wrath,
and he quitted the Bishop's presence in a passion of disrespect impossible
to describe. A most excellent Priest who had been in the room all through
the interview asked the Bishop, after the departure of his impudent
visitor, how he could bear such treatment with the patience he showed.
"Well," he answered, "it was not he himself that spoke, it was his passion.
After all he is one of my best friends, and you will see that my silence on
this occasion will only make our friendship the stronger.

"More than this. Has not God from all eternity foreseen that these insults
would be offered to me to-day, and foreseen, too, that He would bestow
on me such grace as would enable me to bear them joyfully? Should I not
drain the chalice held to my lips by the hands of so loving a Father? Oh!
how sweet is this inebriating cup, offered to me by a hand which from my
infancy I have learnt to adore." "But," returned the Priest, "were not your
feelings stirred at all by this treatment?"

"Well," replied the Bishop, "I tried to overcome them by fixing my thoughts
on the good qualities of the man whose friendship I have so long and so
happily enjoyed. Then, too, I hope that when this storm in a tea-cup has
subsided and the clouds of passion have lifted, my friend will come back to
me with peace in his heart and serenity on his countenance."

Nor was the Saint's expectation disappointed. His friend did come back, and
with many tears begged his forgiveness; a forgiveness which was, you may be
sure, granted so fully and with such loving readiness as to increase the
fervour and sincerity of their old and mutual affection.


In the course of his long mission in the Chablais, he one day preached on
that text which commands us to offer the right cheek to him who smites
us on the left. As he came down from the pulpit he was accosted by a
Protestant who asked him if he felt that he could practise what he had just
preached, or whether he was not rather one of those who preach but do not

The Saint replied: "My dear brother, I am but a weak man and beset by
infirmities. At the same time, miserable though I feel myself to be, God
teaches me what I ought to do. I cannot tell you what I should actually do,
because though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. At the same time
we know, that while without grace we can do nothing, with its aid we can do
everything; a reed in the hand of grace becomes a mighty staff that cannot
be broken. If we are told to be willing to give our life itself in defence
of our faith, how much more does it behove us to endure some small affront
for the maintenance of charity! Moreover, were I to be such a recreant to
the grace of God as not to bear an insult of this kind patiently, let me
remind you that the same Gospel which reproves those who preach but do not
practise, warns us against following the example of such teachers, though
it bids us do what they tell us to do."

"Yet," resumed the other, "our Saviour never presented the other cheek to
the servant of the High Priest who struck Him; on the contrary He resented
the act."

"What!" cried the holy Bishop, "you place our Lord on a level with those
who preach but do not practise! That is blasphemy! As for us, we entertain
more reverent feelings towards that Model of all perfection. It is not
for us to comment on the actions of Him who, as we firmly believe, could
not act otherwise than most perfectly. Neither is it for us to dare to
say: 'Why hast Thou done thus?' Yet we may well remember His zeal for
the salvation of that impious man's soul, and the remonstrances which He
deigned to use in order to bring him to repentance. Nay, did He not offer
not only His cheek to the smiter, but His whole sacred Body to the cruel
scourging which covered Him with wounds from Head to Foot?"


He was once asked which, in his opinion, was the most perfect of the eight
Beatitudes. It was thought that he would answer: "The second, Blessed
are the meek," but it was not so; he gave the preference to the eighth:
_Blessed are they that suffer for justice' sake_. He explained his
preference by saying that "the life of those who are persecuted for
justice' sake is hidden in God with Jesus Christ, and becomes conformable
to His image; for was not He persecuted all through His earthly life for
justice' sake, although He fulfilled it in all its perfection? Such persons
are, as it were, shrouded by the veil which hides the countenance of God.
They appear sinful, but they are just; dead, but they live; fools, but they
are wise; in a word, though despised in the sight of men, they are dear to
God with whom they live for ever.

"Should God have given me one particle of justice, enabling me thereby to
do some little good, it would be my wish that in the Day of Judgment, when
all secrets are revealed, God alone should know my righteousness, and that
my sinful actions should be proclaimed to all creatures."


Grace produced in him that wonderful and perfectly harmonious blending
of gravity and affability, which was perhaps his most distinguishing
characteristic. There was in his whole demeanour and in the very expression
of his face a lofty and dignified beauty which inspired reverence and even
a sort of fear--that is, such fear as engenders respect and makes any undue
familiarity impossible. Yet, at the same time he displayed such sweetness
and gentleness as to encourage all who approached him. No one, however
conscious of his own want of attractiveness, feared a repulse from the holy
Bishop, and all, feeling sure of a welcome, were only eager to please and
satisfy him.

For my own part I must confess that when I succeeded in doing anything
which he was able to praise, and which consequently gave him pleasure, I
was so happy and elated that I felt as if I were raised to the seventh
heaven! Indeed, had he not taught me to refer everything to God, many of
my actions would, I fear, have stopped half-way thither. People of high
standing in society, accustomed even to come into close contact with
royalty itself, have assured me that, in the presence of our Saint, they
felt a subtle influence guarding, restraining, elevating them as no other
companionship, however noble and distinguished, could ever do. It was as
though in him they saw some reflection of the all-penetrating intelligence
of God Himself, lighting up the inmost recesses of their heart, and laying
bare its mysteries.

Yet his affability was no less marvellous, making itself felt the instant
you came in contact with him. It was not like a quality or grace acquired;
it was not in any way apart from his own personality, it was as if he were
affability personified. Hence that power of winning over others, of making
himself all things to all men, of gaining the support of so many in his
plans and schemes, all of which had but one aim and object, namely, the
increase of the glory of God and the promotion of the salvation of souls.


He was once asked to visit in prison a poor criminal already condemned to
death, but who could not be induced to make his confession. The unhappy man
had committed crimes so terrible that he despaired of the forgiveness even
of God, and having often during his lifetime met death face to face in
battle and in duels, he appeared to be quite ready again to meet it boldly;
nay, so hardened was he by the devil that he even spoke calmly of hell, as
of the abode destined for him for eternity.

Our Blessed Father finding him in this frame of mind, and altogether cold,
hard, and reckless, proclaiming himself the prey of Satan and a victim
prepared for hell, thus addressed him: "My brother, would you not rather be
the prey of God and a victim of the Cross of Jesus Christ?" "What," cried
the criminal, "do you think that God would have anything to do with a
victim as repulsive as I am?"

"Oh, God!" was the silent prayer of Blessed Francis, "remember Thine
ancient mercies and the promise which Thou hast made never to quench
utterly the smoking flax nor wholly to break the bruised reed. Thou who
wiliest not the death of the sinner, but rather that he should be converted
and live, make happy the last moments of this poor soul."

Then he spoke aloud replying to the despairing words of the poor wretch,
for, horrifying though they were, they had proved to the skilled workman
that there was something left to work upon, that faith in God was not yet
wholly dead in that poor heart. "At any rate, would you not rather abandon
yourself to God than to the evil one?" "Most assuredly," replied the
criminal, "but it is a likely thing indeed that' God would have anything
to do with a man like me!" "It was for men like you," returned the Bishop,
"that the Eternal Father sent His Son into the world, nay for worse than
you, even for Judas and for the miscreants who crucified Him. Jesus Christ
came to save not the just, but sinners."

"But," cried the other, "can you assure me that it would not be presumption
on my part to have recourse to His mercy?" "It would be great presumption,"
replied our Saint, "to think that His mercy was not infinite, far above all
sins not only possible but conceivable, and that His redemption was not so
plentiful, but that it could make grace superabound where sin had poured
forth a flood of evils. On the contrary, His mercy, which is over all His
works, and which always overrides His justice, becomes so much the greater
the greater the mountain of our sins.

"Upon that very mountain he sets up the throne of His mercy." With words
such as these, kindling, or rather re-animating the spark of faith not yet
wholly dead in the soul of the wretched man, he relighted the flame of
hope, which up to that moment was quite extinguished, and little by little
softened and tamed the man's natural temper, rendered savage by despair. He
led him on at last to resignation, and persuaded him to cast himself into
the arms of God for death and for life; to deal with him according to His
own good pleasure, for his whole future in this world, or in the next.

"But He will damn me," said the man, "for He is just." "No, He will pardon
you," replied Blessed Francis, "if you cry to Him for mercy, for He is
merciful and has promised forgiveness to whoever implores it of Him with a
humble and contrite heart." "Well," replied the criminal, "let Him damn me
if he pleases--I am His. He can do with me what the potter does with his
clay." "Nay," replied the holy Bishop, "say rather with David, _I am Thine,
O Lord, save me_." Not to make the story too long, I may tell you that the
holy Bishop brought this man to confession, repentance, and contrition, and
that he died with great constancy, sincerely acknowledging his sins and
abandoning himself entirely to the most holy will of God. The last words
which our Blessed Father made him utter were these: "O Jesus, I give myself
up to Thee--I abandon myself wholly to Thee."


It is far better to mortify the body through the spirit than the spirit
through the body. To deaden and beat down the body instead of trying to
reduce the swelling of an inflated spirit is like pulling back a horse by
its tail. It is behaving like Balaam, who beat the ass which carried him,
instead of taking heed to the peril which threatened him and which the poor
beast was miraculously warning him to avoid.

One of the three first Postulants who entered the Convent of the
Visitation, established by me at Belley, left it before taking the novices'
habit being unable to understand how Religious could be holy in an Order in
which she saw so few austerities practised. She has since then, however,
been disabused of her error, and has repented of it.

At that time she was under the guidance of those who considered that
holiness consisted in mortifications in respect of food and clothing: as if
the stings of the flesh cease to be felt when you no longer eat of it,
and as if you could not be temperate over partridges and gluttonous over

Our Blessed Father, writing to a novice in one of his convents who was
perplexed on this subject, says: "The devil does not trouble himself much
about us if, while macerating our bodies, we are at the same time doing our
own will, for he does not fear austerity but obedience.

"What greater austerity can there be than to keep our will in subjection
and In continual obedience, Reassure yourself then, O lover of voluntary
penance, if, indeed, the works of self-love deserve to be called penances!
When you took the habit after many prayers and much consideration, it was
thought good that you should enter the school of obedience and renunciation
of your own will rather than remain the sport of your own judgment and of

"Do not then let yourself be shaken, but remain where our Lord has placed
you. It is true that there you suffer great mortifications of heart, seeing
yourself so imperfect and so deserving of reproof and correction, but is
not this the very thing you ought to seeks mortification of heart and
a continual sense of your own misery? Yet, you say, you cannot do such
penance as you would. My dear daughter, tell me what better penance can be
given to an erring heart than to bear a continual cross and to be always
renouncing self-love?"


Blessed Francis was no great friend of unusual mortifications, and did
not wish them to be practised except in the pressing necessity of violent

In such cases it was his desire that those so assailed should try to repel
force by force, employing that holy violence which takes heaven by storm,
for, as by cutting and burning health is restored to the body, so also by
these caustic remedies holiness is often preserved in the soul.

He used to say that to those who made all kinds of exterior austerities
their custom, the custom in time becomes a second nature;[1] that those who
had hardened their skin no longer felt any inconvenience from cold, from
hard couches, or coarse garments, and that when the flame of concupiscence
kindled this dry wood they possessed no remedy which they could apply to
extinguish the fire.

They are like the pagan king, who had so accustomed himself to feed upon
poison that when he wished to end his miseries with his life by taking it,
he was obliged to live on against his will, and to serve as a sport to his

The devil cares very little about our body being laid low so long as he can
hold on to us by the vices of the soul; and so cunning is he that often out
of bodily mortifications, he extracts matter for vanity.

Our holy Bishop wrote as follows to a person who regretted that her health
prevented her from continuing her accustomed austerities:

"Since you do not find yourself any longer able to practise corporal
mortifications and the severities of penance, and since it is not at
all expedient that you should think of doing so, on which point we are
perfectly agreed, keep your heart calm and recollected in the presence of
its Saviour; and as far as possible do what you may have to do solely to
please God, and suffer whatever you may have to suffer according to His
disposal of events in this life with the same intention. Thus God will
possess you wholly and will graciously allow you to possess Him one day

With regard to the various kinds of mortification, that which is inward and
hidden is far more excellent than that which is exterior, the former
not being compatible, as is the latter, with hypocrisy, vanity, or

Again, those mortifications which come upon us from without, either
directly from God or through men by His permission, are always superior to
those which depend upon our own choice and which are the offspring of our

Many, however, find here a stumbling block, being very eager to embrace
mortifications suggested by their own inclinations, which, after all,
however apparently severe, are really easy because they are what nature
itself wants.

On the other hand, mortifications which come to them from without and
through others, however light they may be, they find insupportable. For
example, a person will eagerly make use of disciplines, hair-shirts, and
fasting, and yet will be so tender of his reputation that if once in a way
laughed at or spoken against, he will become almost beside himself, robbed
of his rest and even sometimes of his reason; and will perhaps in the end
be driven to the most deplorable extremities.

Another will throw himself with ardour into the practice of prayer,
penance, silence, and such like devotions, but will break out into a fury
of impatience and complain indignantly and unrestrainedly at the loss of a
law-suit, or at the slightest damage done to his property.

Another will give alms liberally and make magnificent foundations for the
relief of the poor and sick, but will groan and tremble with fear when
himself threatened with infirmity or sickness, however slightly; and upon
experiencing the least possible bodily pain, will give vent to interminable

In proportion as people are more or less attached to honours, gain, or mere
pleasures, they bear with less or more patience the hindrances to them; nor
do the majority of men seriously consider that it is the hand of God which
gives and which takes away, which kills and which makes alive, which exalts
and which casts down, as it pleases Him.

In order to heal this spiritual malady in a certain person our Blessed
Father wrote to her: "Often and with all your heart kiss the crosses which
God has laid upon your shoulders. Do not consider whether they are of
precious and sweet-scented wood or not. And, indeed, they are more truly
crosses when they are of coarse, common, ill-smelling wood. It is strange,
but one particular chant keeps ever coming back to my mind, and it is the
only one I know. It is the canticle of the divine Lamb; sad, indeed, but at
the same time harmonious and beautiful--_Father, not my will, but Thine be

[Footnote 1: It is not to be inferred that Saint Francis countenanced
self-indulgence. He only wished to remove the idea common in his day,
that devotion must be accompanied by austerity.--[Ed.]]
[Footnote 2: Luke xxii. 42.]


One day when we were talking about that holy liberty of spirit of which
he thought so highly, as being one of the great aids to charity, Blessed
Francis told me the following anecdote, which is a most practical
illustration of his feelings on the subject.

He had been visited by a Prelate, whom, with his accustomed hospitality
and kindness, he pressed to remain with him for several days. When Friday
evening came, our Blessed Father went to the Prelate's room inviting him to
come to supper, which was quite ready.

"Supper!" cried his guest. "This is not a day for supper! Surely, the least
one can do is to fast once a week!" Our holy Bishop at once left him to do
as he pleased, desiring the servants to take his collation to his room,
while he himself joined the chaplains of the Prelate and his own household
at the supper table.

The chaplains told him that this Prelate was so exact and punctilious in
discharging all his religious exercises, of prayer, fasting, and such like,
that he never abated one of them, whatever company he might have. Not
that he refused to sit down to table with his visitors on fast days, but
that he ate nothing but what was permitted by the rule he had imposed on
himself. Our Blessed Father, after telling me this, went on to say that
condescension was the daughter of charity, just as fasting is the sister of
obedience; and that where obedience did not impose the sacrifice, he would
have no difficulty in preferring condescension and hospitality to fasting.
The lives of the Saints furnish frequent examples of this. Above all,
Scripture assures us, that by hospitality some have merited to receive
Angels; from which declaration St. Paul takes occasion to exhort the
faithful not to forget liberality and hospitality, as sacrifices well
pleasing to God.[2]

"Remember," he said, "that we must not be so deeply attached to our
religious exercises, however pious, as not to be ready sometimes to give
them up. For, if we cling to them too tightly, under the pretext of
fidelity and steadfastness, a subtle self-love will glide in among them,
making us forget the end in the means, and then, instead of pressing on,
nor resting till we rest in God Himself, we shall stop short at the means
which lead to Him.

"As regards the occurrence of which I have been telling you, one Friday's
fast, thus interrupted, would have concealed many others; and to conceal
such virtues is no less a virtue than those which are so concealed. God is
a hidden God, who loves to be served, prayed to, and adored in secret, as
the Gospel testifies.[3] You know what happened to that unthinking king
of Israel, who, for having displayed his treasures to the ambassadors of
a barbarian prince, was deprived of them all, when that same heathen king
descended upon him with a powerful army.

"The practice of the virtue of condescension or affability may often with
profit be substituted for fasting. I except, however, the case of a vow,
for in that we must be faithful even to death, and care nothing about what
men may say, provided that God is served. _They that please men have been
confounded, because God hath despised them._"[4]

He asked me one day if it was easy for me to fast. I answered that it was
perfectly easy, as it was a rare thing for me to sit down to table with any
appetite. "Then," he rejoined, "do not fast at all." On my expressing great
astonishment at these words, and venturing to remind our Blessed Father
that it was a mortification, strongly recommended to us by God Himself.

"Yes," he replied, "but for those who have better appetites than you have.
Do some other good work, and keep your body in subjection by some other
mode of discipline." He went on, however, to say that fasting was, indeed,
the greatest of all corporal austerities, since it puts the axe to the root
of the tree. The others only touch the bark lightly; they only scrape or
prune it. Whereas when the body waxes fat it often kicks, and from this
sort of fatness sin is likely to proceed.

"Those who are naturally sober, temperate, and self-restrained have a great
advantage over others in the matter of study and spiritual things. They
are like horses that have been well broken in, horses which have a strong
bridle, holding them in to their duty."

He was no friend to immoderate fasting, and never encouraged it in his
penitents, as we see in his "Introduction to a Devout Life," where he gives
this reason against the practice: "When the body is over-fed, the mind
cannot support its weight; but when the body is weak and wasted. It cannot
support the mind." He liked the one and the other to be dealt with in
a well-balanced manner, and said that God wished to be served with a
reasonable service; adding--that it was always easy to bring down and
reduce the bodily forces, but that it was not so easy a matter to build
them up again when thus brought low. It is easy to wound, but not to heal.
The mind should treat the body as its child, correcting without crushing
it: only when it revolts must it be treated as a rebellious subject,
according to the words of the Apostle: _I chastise my body and bring it
into subjection_.[Footnote 5]

[Footnote 1: The Saint is here speaking of fasts of devotion, not of
those of obligation.--[Ed.]]
[Footnote 2: Heb. xiii. 2, 16.]
[Footnote 3: Matt. vi. 6.]
[Footnote 4: Psalm lii. 6.]
[Footnote 5: 1 Cor. ix. 27.]


I was so young when called to the episcopate that I lived in a state of
continual mistrust and uncertainty; doubtful about this, scrupulous about
that; ignorance being the grandmother of scruples, as servile fear is their

At the time of which I am going to speak, the residences of our Blessed
Father and myself were only eight leagues apart, and in all my perplexities
and difficulties I had recourse to his judgment and counsel. I kept a
little foot-boy in my service, almost entirely employed in running to and
fro between Belley and Annecy, carrying my letters to him and bringing
back his replies. These replies were to me absolute decrees; nay, I should
rather say oracles, so manifestly did God speak by the mouth and pen of
that holy man.

On one occasion it happened that the captains of some troops--then
stationed in garrison on the borders of Savoy and France, on account of a
misunderstanding which had arisen between the two countries--came to me
at the beginning of Lent to ask permission for their men to eat eggs and
cheese during that season. This was a permission which I had never given
except to the weak and sickly. I learned from the men themselves that they
were exceedingly robust and hearty, and only weak and reduced as regarded
their purses, their pay being so small that it barely supplied them with
food. Nevertheless, I did not consider this poor pay a sufficient reason
for granting a dispensation, especially in a district where Lent is so
strictly kept that the peasants are scandalized when told that on certain
days they may eat butter.

In my difficulty I despatched a letter at once to our Blessed Father, whose
reply was full of sweetness and kindness. He said that he honoured the
faith and piety of the good centurions, who had presented this request,
which, indeed, deserved to be granted, seeing that it edified, not the
Synagogue, but the Church. He added that I ought not only to grant it, but
to extend it, and instead of eggs, to permit them to eat oxen, and instead
of cheese, the cows of whose milk it is made.

"Truly," he went on to say, "you are a wise person to consult me as to what
soldiers shall eat in Lent, as if the laws of war and necessity did not
over-ride all others without exception! Is it not a great thing that these
good men submit themselves to the Church, and so defer to her as to ask her
permission and blessing? God grant that they may do nothing worse than eat
eggs, cheese, or beef; if they were guilty of nothing more heinous than
that, there would not be so many complaints against them."


"It is quite true," said our Blessed Father, on one occasion, "that there
are certain matters in which we are meant to use our own judgment, and in
which, if we judge ourselves, we shall not be chastised by God. But there
are others in which, with the eye of our soul, that is, with our judgment,
it is as with the eye of the body, which sees all things excepting itself.
We need a mirror. Now, this mirror, as regards interior things, is the
person to whom we manifest our conscience, and who is its judge in the
place of God."

He went on to say that in the matter of granting dispensations to his
flock, he had told a certain Prelate, who had consulted him on the subject,
that the best rule to give to others, or to take for oneself in such
questions, is to love one's neighbour as oneself, and oneself as others, in
God and for God. "If," he continued, addressing the Prelate, "you now take
more trouble about granting these necessary dispensations to others than in
getting them for yourself, the time will come when you will be generous,
easy, and indulgent towards others, and severe and rigorous towards
yourself. Perhaps you imagine that this second line of conduct is better
than the other. It is not, and you will find the repose and peace of your
soul only in the golden mean, which is the one wholesome atmosphere for the
nourishing of virtue."


Our Blessed Father held in great esteem the Gospel maxim, _Eat such things
as are set before you_.[1] He deemed it a much higher and stronger degree
of mortification to accommodate the tastes and appetite to any food,
whether pleasant or otherwise, which may be offered, than always to choose
the most inferior and coarsest kinds. For it not seldom happens that the
greatest delicacies--or those at least which are esteemed to be such by
epicures--are not to our taste, and therefore to partake of them without
showing the least sign of dislike is by no means so small a matter as may
be thought. It incommodes no one but the person who so mortifies himself,
and it is a little act of self-restraint so secret, so securely hidden from
others, that the rest of the company imagine something quite different from
the real truth.

He also considered that it was a species of incivility when seated at a
meal to ask for some dish which was at the other end of the table, instead
of taking what was close at hand. He said that such practices were evidence
of a mind too keen about viands, sauces, and condiments; too much absorbed
in mere eating and drinking. If, he added, this careful picking out of
dishes is not done from greediness or gluttony, but from a desire to choose
the worst food, it smacks of affectation, which is as inseparable from
ostentation as smoke from fire. The conduct of people who do this is not
unlike that of guests who take the lowest seats at the table, in order
that they may, with the greater _eclat_, be summoned to the higher places.
The following incident will show his own indifference. One day poached
eggs were served to him, and when he had eaten them, he continued to dip
his bread in the water in which they had been cooked, apparently without
noticing what he was doing. The guests were all smiling. Upon discovering
the cause of their amusement, he told them it was too bad of them to
undeceive him, as he was taking the sauce with much relish, verifying the
proverb that "Hunger is the best sauce"!

[Footnote 1: Luc. x. 8.]


The degree of perfection to which our Blessed Father brought his Religious
he makes manifest to us in one of his letters.

"Do you know," he says, "what the cloister is? It is the school of exact
correction, in which each individual soul must learn the lesson of allowing
itself to be so disciplined, planed, and polished that at length, being
quite smooth and even, it may be fit to be joined, united, and absolutely
assimilated with the Will of God.

"To wish to be corrected is an evident sign of perfection, for the
principal point of humility is realizing our need of it.

"A convent is a hospital for the spiritually sick. The sick wish to be
cured, and, therefore, they willingly submit to be lanced, probed, cut,
cauterized, and subjected to any and every pain and discomfort which
medicine or surgery may suggest.

"In the early days of the Church, religious were called by a name which
signifies healers. Oh! my daughter, be truly your own healer, and pay no
heed to what self-love may whisper to the contrary. Say to yourself, since
I do not wish to die spiritually, I will be healed, and in order to be
healed I will submit to treatment and correction, and I will entreat the
doctors to spare me nothing which may be required to effect my cure."


Our Blessed Father, who did not like people to be too introspective and
self-tormenting, said that they should, however, walk as it is written of
the Maccabees, _Caute et ordinate_;[1] that is, with circumspection and
order, or, to use a common expression, "bridle in hand." And one of the
best proofs of our advancement in virtue is, he said, a love of correction
and reproof; for it is a sign of a good digestion easily to assimilate
tough and coarse food. In the same way it is a mark of spiritual health
and inward vigour to be able to say with the Psalmist, _The just man shall
correct me in mercy and shall reprove me._[2]

It is a great proof of our hating vice, and of the faults which we commit,
proceeding rather from inadvertence and frailty, than from malice and
deliberate intention, that we welcome the warnings which make us think on
our ways, and turn back our feet (that is to say, our affections) into the
testimonies of God, by which is meant the divine law.

An old philosopher said that to want to get well is part of the sick man's
cure. The desire to keep well is a sign of health. He who loves correction
necessarily desires the virtue contrary to the fault for which he is
reproved, and therefore profits by the warnings given him to escape the
vice from which his fault proceeded.

A sick person who is really anxious to recover his health takes without
hesitation the remedies prescribed by the physician, however sharp, bitter,
and painful they may be. He who aims at perfection, which is the full
health, and true holiness of the soul, finds nothing difficult that helps
him to arrive at that end. Justice and judgment, that is to say correction,
establish in him the seat of perfect wisdom. In a word, _better are the
wounds of a friend_ (like those of a surgeon who probes only to heal) _than
the deceitful kisses of a_ flatterer, _an enemy_.[3]

[Footnote 1: 1 Mach. vi. 4.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm cxl. 5.]
[Footnote 3: Prov. xxvii. 6.]


Our Blessed Father was speaking to me one day on the subject of exterior
perfection, and on the discontent expressed by certain Religions, who, in
their particular order, had not found the strictness and severity of rule
they desired. He said: "These good people seem to me to be knocking their
heads against a stone wall. Christian perfection does not consist in
eating fish, wearing serge, sleeping on straw, stripping oneself of one's
possessions, keeping strict vigils, and such like austerities. For, were
this so, pagans would be the more perfect than Christians, since many of
them voluntarily sleep on the bare ground, do not eat a morsel of meat
throughout the whole year, are ragged, naked, shivering, living for the
most part only on bread and water, and on that bread of suffering, too,
which is far harder and heavier than the blackest of crusts. If perfection
consisted in exterior observances such as these, they would have to go back
in perfection were they to enter even the most strictly reformed of our
Religious Houses, for in none is a life led nearly so austere as theirs.

"The question then is in what does the essential perfection of a Christian
life consist? It must surely in the first place include the assiduous
practice of charity, for exterior mortifications without charity are of no
account. St. Paul, we know, reckons martyrdom itself as nothing, unless
quickened by charity.

"I do not exactly know what standard of perfection they who insist so much
upon exterior mortification wish to set up.

"Surely the greater or lesser degree of charity is the true measure of
sanctity and the measure also of the excellence of religious rule. Now, in
what rule is charity, the queen of the virtues, more recommended that in
that of St. Augustine? which seems to be nothing but one long discourse on

"However, it is not a question of comparing one rule with another, it is
rather of noticing which rule is as a matter of fact best observed. For
even had other rules, in regard to the exterior perfectness of the life
they prescribe, every advantage over that of St. Augustine, who does
not know that it is safer to enter a community in which a rule of less
excellence is exactly observed, rather than another where a higher kind
of rule is preached but not kept? Of what use are laws if they are not

"The consequence, in my opinion, of the mistake made by those who put
over-much stress on esteem of mortification, is, that even Religious get
accustomed to make use in their judgments of those lying balances of which
the Psalmist speaks,[1] and that the simple-minded are forced to trust to
the guidance of blind leaders. Hence it has come to pass that true and
essential perfection is not what the majority of people think it to be, nor
is it reached by the road along which the many travel. May God have pity on
us, and bless us with the light of His countenance, so that we may know His
way upon the earth, and may declare His salvation to all nations, and may
He turn aside from us in this our day, that which He once threatened to
those who thought themselves wise: _Let them alone, they are blind leaders
of the blind._"[1]

[Footnote 1: Psalm lxi. 10.]
[Footnote 2: Matt. xv. 14.]


The following notable example of frugality and economy was related to me by
our Blessed Father himself.

Monseigneur Vespasian Grimaldi, who was Piedmontese by birth, made a
tolerably large fortune in France as an ecclesiastic, during the regency of
Catherine de Medicis. He was raised to the dignity of Archbishop of Vienne
in Dauphine, and held several other benefices which brought him in a large
revenue. Having amassed all these riches at court, his desire was to live
there in great pomp and splendour, but whether it was that God did not
bless his designs, or that he was too much addicted to extravagance and
display, certain it is that he was always in difficulties, not only about
money, but even about his health.

Weary at last of dragging on a life so troubled and so wretched, he
resolved to quit the court, and to retire into a peaceful solitude. He had
often in past days remarked the extraordinary beauty of the banks of Lake
Leman, where nature seems to scatter her richest gifts with lavish hand,
and there he resolved to fix his abode in a district subject to his own
sovereign, the Duke of Savoy, and settling down in that quiet spot to spend
the remainder of his days in peace. He selected for this purpose the little
village and market town of Evian, so called because of the abundance and
clearness of its lovely streams and fountains. The little town is situated
on the very margin of the lake, and backed by an outlying stretch of
country is as charming to, the eye as it is rich and fertile.

There, having given up his archbishopric and all his benefices, reserving
only to himself a pension of two thousand crowns, he established a retreat
into which he was accompanied by only three or four servants.

He was at this time sixty-five years old, but weighed down by physical
infirmities much more than by the burden of his years. He had chosen this
particular spot purposely because there was no approach to it from the high
road, and there was little fear of visits from that great world of which he
was now so weary, in the crush and tumult of which he had spent so large a
portion of his life in consequence of his position at court.

Another reason for his choosing Evian was that the little township being
in the diocese of Geneva, which is included in the province of Vienne in
Dauphine, in settling there he was not leaving his own province.

Living then in this calm retreat, free from all bustle and all burdens of
office, with no show and state to keep up, having nothing to attend to but
the sanctification of his soul and the restoration of his bodily health, a
marvellous change was soon observed in him. Inward peace gave back to him
health so vigorous and settled that those who had known him in the days of
his infirmity declared him to be absolutely rejuvenated, and truly he did
feel in his soul a renewal of strength like that of the eagle. This he
attributed to exercises of the contemplative life to which he now devoted
himself with fervour.

We see thus how true is the divine oracle which tells us that to those who
seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice all temporal things necessary
shall be given,[1] for God prospered this good Prelate in even his worldly

The small sum of money which he had reserved for himself, and which he
spent in the most frugal and judicious manner possible, so increased that
when he died at the age of a hundred and two or a hundred and three years,
he left behind him more than 6,000 crowns.

By his will he ordered the whole to be distributed in benefactions and alms
throughout the neighbourhood, and in fact it relieved every necessitous
person to be found round about.

It was this very Mgr. Vespasian Grimaldi who, assisted by the Bishops
of Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux, and of Damascus, conferred episcopal
consecration upon Blessed Francis in the Church of Thorens, in the diocese
of Geneva, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, December
8th, 1602.

From this notable example we may easily gather:

1. That for Prelates the atmosphere of Courts is not to be recommended.

2. That it is favourable neither to the growth of holiness nor the
maintenance of physical health.

3. That great fortunes entail great slavery and great anxieties.

4. A peaceful, tranquil, and hidden life, even from the point of view of
common sense and of the dictates of nature, is the happiest.

5. That much more is this so when looked at in the light of grace and of
the soul's welfare.

6. That the old saying is quite true that there is no surer way to increase
one's income than that of frugality and judicious economy.

7. That one never has money enough to meet all the claims of worldly show
and vain ostentation.

8. That he who lives in the style the world expects of him is never rich,
while he who regulates his expenditure simply by his natural needs is never

9. That almsdeeds is an investment which multiplies itself a hundredfold
even in this present life and ensures the fruit of a blessed eternity in
the next, provided only they have been given in the love, and for the love
of God.

[Footnote 1: Matt. vi. 33.]


Our Blessed Father had the highest possible esteem for the virtue of
simplicity. Indeed, my sisters, you know what a prominent place he gives to
it in his letters, his Spiritual Conferences, and elsewhere. Whenever he
met with an example of it he rejoiced and openly expressed his delight. I
will here give you one instance which he told me, as it were exulting over
it. After having preached the Advent and Lent at Grenoble, he paid a visit
to La Grande Chartreuse, that centre of wonderful devotion and austerity,
the surroundings of which are so wild, solitary, and almost terrible in
their ruggedness, that St. Bernard called it _locus horroris et vastae

At the time of his visit, the Prior General of the whole Order was Dom
Bruno d'Affringues, a native of St. Omer, a man of profound learning and of
still more profound humility and simplicity. I knew him well, and can bear
witness to the beauty of his character, which in its extreme sweetness and
simplicity had something in it not of this earth.

He received Blessed Francis on his arrival with his usual delightful
courtesy and sincerity. After having conducted him to a guest chamber
suited to his rank, and having talked with him on many lofty and sublime
subjects, he suddenly remembered that it was some feast day of the Order.
He therefore took leave of the Bishop, saying that he would gladly have
stayed with him much longer, but that he knew his honoured guest would
prefer obedience to everything else, and that he must retire to his cell
to prepare for Matins, it being the feast of one of their great Saints.

Our Saint approved highly of this exact observance of rule, and they
separated with mutual expressions of respect and regard.

On his way to his cell, however, the Prior was met by the Procurator of
the Monastery, who asked him where he was going and where he had left his
Lordship, the Bishop of Geneva. "I have left Him," the Prior answered, "in
his own chamber, and I took leave of him that I might go to our cell and
be ready to say Matins to-night in choir because of to-morrow's feast."
"Truly, Reverend Father," said the Procurator, "you are well up in the
ceremonies of the world indeed! Why, it is only a feast of our own Order!
Do we, out in this desert, have every day for our guests Prelates of such
distinction? Do you not know that God takes pleasure when for a sacrifice
to Him we offer hospitality and kindliness? You will always have leisure to
sing the praises of God; you will have plenty of other opportunities for
saying Matins; but who can entertain such a Prelate better than you? What
a disgrace to the house that you should leave him thus alone!" "My son,"
replied the Reverend Father, "I see that you are quite right and that I
have certainly done wrong." So saying he at once retraced his steps to
the Bishop of Geneva's apartment, and finding him, there said humbly: "My
Lord, on leaving you I met one of our brethren who told me that I had been
guilty of discourtesy in leaving you thus all alone; that I should have an
opportunity at another time of making up for my absence from Matins, but
that we do not every day have a Bishop of Geneva under our roof. I see that
he is in the right and I have come back at once to ask your pardon, and to
beg you to excuse my apparent rudeness, for I assure you truthfully that
_it was done in ignorance_."

Blessed Francis was enraptured with this straightforwardness, candour, and
simplicity, and told me that he was more delighted with it than if he had
seen the good Prior work a miracle.


This same Dom Bruno was remarkable for his exactitude and punctuality,
virtues which our Blessed Father always both admired and praised. He was
so exact in the observance of the smallest monastic detail that no novice
could have surpassed him in carefulness. At the same time he never allowed
himself to be carried away by indiscreet fervour, beyond the line laid down
in his rule, knowing how much harm would be done to his inferiors by his
not preserving a calm and even tenor of life, making himself all things to
men, that he might win them and keep them for Jesus Christ.

He would never allow the smallest austerities to be practised beyond those
prescribed by the Constitutions of the Order. Though rigorous towards
himself he was marvellously indulgent towards those whom he governed in
the monastery. For himself he had the heart of a judge, for them that of a

Our holy Bishop, drawing a comparison between him and his predecessor, who
was addicted to such excessive austerities that it seemed as if he had
either no body at all, or one of iron, said: "The late Prior was like those
unskilful physicians who by their treatment fill up our cemeteries: for
many who desired to imitate his mortified life, and through a zeal without
knowledge, tried to do what was beyond their strength, ended by falling
into the pit. On the other hand, the actual Prior of the Grand Chartreuse,
by his gentleness and moderation, maintains among his monks, peace and
humility of soul, together with health of body, making them preserve their
strength for God, that is to say, so as to serve Him longer and with
greater earnestness in those exercises which tend to His glory. In doing
this he follows the example of the Patriarch Jacob, who, on his return
from Mesopotamia, could have reached his father's house much sooner had he
accepted the offer of camels made by his brother Esau, when he came to meet
him. But Jacob preferred to accommodate his pace to that of his little
ones, of his children, and even of the lambs of his flock, rather than
to press on at the risk of throwing his household and followers into
disorder." This example was a favourite one with our Blessed Father, and I
am reminded of another of the same kind, which he valued almost as much.
"Have you read," he once said to me, "the life of Blessed Aloysius Gonzaga
of the Society of Jesus? If you have, perhaps you have remarked what it was
that made that young prince so quickly become holy, and almost perfect. It
was his extreme exactitude and punctuality, and his faithful observance of
the constitutions of his Order. This was such that he refused to put one
foot before the other, so to speak, or draw back a single step in order
to gratify himself. This, not of course in regard to things commanded, or
forbidden, for the law of God leaves us in no doubt about such, but in
those indifferent matters which, being neither commanded nor forbidden,
often make correct discernment difficult." There are some who imagine that
this way of discerning the will of God is impracticable for persons in the
world, and that it is only out of the world, as they call the cloistered
life, that one can have recourse to it. Now, although we do not deny that
in the well-regulated and holy life of a convent by means of obedience,
and through the medium of superiors, the knowledge of God's will in things
indifferent can be more perfectly ascertained, and more readily acted upon,
than in any other state of life, still we venture to maintain that even in
the world it is easier to ascertain God's will, even in things indifferent,
than might at first sight appear."

It was one of Blessed Francis' common maxims that great fidelity towards
God may be practised even in the most indifferent actions, and he
considered that to be a lower degree of fidelity which is only available
for great and striking occasions. He who is careful with farthings, how
much more so will he be with crowns?

Not that he loved scrupulous minds, those, namely, which are troubled and
anxious about every trifle. No, indeed, but he desired that God should
be loved by all with a vigilant and attentive love, exact, punctual, and
faithful in the smallest matters, pictured to us by the rod the Prophet
used when watching the boiling caldron, to remove all the scum as it rose
to the surface.[1]

And you may be sure that what he taught by word, he himself was the first
to practise. He was the most punctual man I ever knew, the most exact,
though without fussiness or worry. He was not only most accurate in all
details of the service of the altar and of the choir, but, even when
reciting his office in private, he never failed to observe all minutiae of
ceremonial in every way, bowing his head, genuflecting, etc., as if he were
engaged in a solemn public function. In his intercourse with the world he
was just as exact; he omitted no detail required by courtesy, he spared no
pains to avoid giving inconvenience or annoyance to anyone. People who were
old fashioned in their punctilious civilities, and tedious and lengthy in
their ceremonious discourse, he treated with the most sweet and gracious
forbearance, letting them say all they had to say, before he replied, and
then answering as his duty and the laws of politeness required.

All his actions were regular as clockwork, and the holy presence of God was
the loadstar of his soul. One day I was complaining to him of the too great
deference which he paid me. "And for how much then do you," he answered,
"account Jesus Christ, whom I honour in your person?" "Oh!" I replied, "if
you take that ground, you ought to speak to me on your knees!"

Once two persons happened to be playing a game of skill when Blessed
Francis was in the room. One was cheating the other. Our holy Prelate,
indignant at this, remonstrated at once. "Oh," was the careless reply,
"we are only playing for farthings." And "supposing you were playing for
guineas," returned Francis, "how would it be then? He, who despises small
faults will fall into great ones, but he who is faithful and honest in
small matters will also be honest in great ones. He who fears to steal a
pin will certainly not take a guinea. In fine, he who is faithful over a
little shall be set over much."

I should like while I am on this subject to add a short saying which was
often on the lips of this Blessed Father. "Fidelity towards God consists in
abstaining from even the slightest faults, for great ones are so repulsive
in themselves that often enough nature deters us from committing them."

[Footnote 1: Jer. i. 11, 13.]


Here I will relate a pleasant little incident which befell Dom Bruno, of
whom I have spoken above. Our Blessed Father often quoted it as an example
for others.

The Germans, particularly those on the banks of the Rhine, have a special
devotion to St. Bruno, who was a native of Cologne, in which city he is
highly honoured.

A young man, a native of the same place, had a most ardent desire to enter
the Carthusian Order, but his parents, influential people of the city,
prevented his being received into the Chartreuse of Cologne, or into any
other Carthusian monastery in the neighbourhood.

The youth, greatly distressed at this repulse, left the city in haste, and
took refuge among the holy mountains where St. Bruno and his companions
made their first retreat. Presenting himself at the Grande Chartreuse
he asked to see the Rev. Fr. Prior, and throwing himself at his feet,
entreated that he might be clothed with the habit of the Order, concealing
nothing from him, neither his birth, nor his place of residence, nor
the circumstances of his vocation, etc. The Prior, observing that he
was fragile in appearance and of an apparently delicate constitution,
remonstrated, pointing out to him how great were the austerities of the
Order, and reminding him of the bleakness of the hills amidst which the
monastery was situated, and of the perpetual winter which reigns there.
The young man replied insisting that he knew all this, and had counted the
cost, but that God would be his strength, and enable him by His grace to
overcome all obstacles. "Even though," said he, "_I should walk in the
shadow of death I shall fear no evil provided that God be with me_." Then
the Prior took a more serious tone. Determined to test to the utmost the
courage and resolution of the postulant, he asked him sharply if he knew
all that was required of those who aspire to enter the Carthusian Order.
"Are you aware," he said, "that in the first place we require him to work
at least one miracle? Can you do that?" "I cannot," replied the young
man, "but the power of God within me can. I trust myself entirely to His
goodness. I am certain that having called me to serve Him in this vocation,
and implanted in me a thorough disgust for the things of the world, He will
not permit me to look back, nor to return to that corrupt society which,
with all my heart and soul, I have renounced. Ask of me whatever sign you
will, I am convinced that God will work a miracle, even through me, in
testimony of this truth."

As he spoke the blood mounted to his forehead, his eyes shone like stars,
his whole visage seemed on fire with enthusiasm.

Dom Bruno, astonished at the vehemence of his words, opened his arms, and
clasping him to his heart received him at once among his children. Then
turning to those who stood around him, "My brothers," he said, "his is an
undeniable vocation. May God of His clemency often send such labourers
into the harvest of the Chartreuse." And to the young postulant, "Have
confidence, my son, God will help you, and will love you, and you will love
Him, and will serve Him among us. This is the miracle we expect you to

You will ask me, perhaps, what use our Blessed Father could make of this
example. I will tell you. When he was admitting any young girl into your
congregation, my sisters, he invariably referred to it. He used to speak
to her only of Calvary, of the nails, the thorns, the crosses, of inward
mortification, of surrender of will, and crucifixion of private judgment,
of dying wholly to self, in order to live only with God, in God, and for
God: in fine, of living no longer according to natural inclinations and
feelings, but absolutely according to the spirit of faith, and of your

Did anyone object that your Order was not so rigorous, or severe, as he
made it out to be; but that, on the contrary, the life led by its members
was easy, without many outward austerities, as was proved by the fact that
even the infirm and sickly were admitted into it, and attained to the same
sanctity as the rest, he replied: "Believe me, that if the body is there
preserved as if it were a vessel of election, the spirit is there tested
and tried in all possible ways, since the spirit that fails to stand every
possible trial is no stone fit for the building up of this congregation."

He went on to quote from the life of St. Bernard. Against that holy man it
was once urged that the austerities and bodily macerations practised in
his Order frightened away young men, and deterred them from entering it,
"Many," said the Saint, "see our crosses, but see not how well we are able
to carry them. It happens to our crosses, as it does to those which are
painted on the walls of a church when the Bishop in consecrating it makes a
second cross upon them with holy oil. The people see the cross made by the
painter, but they do not see that with which the Bishop has covered it. Our
crosses, so plainly visible, are softened by very many inward consolations,
which are concealed from the eyes of worldlings because they understand
not the spiritual things of God, nor see how we can find peace in this
bitterness which so repels those whose only thought is of themselves, and
of their own pleasures. In very truth," our Blessed Father continued, "the
worldling may notice in the rosebed of religion only the loveliness of
the flowers, and the sweetness of their perfume, but these conceal many
a thorn. The crosses of community life are hidden because the sisters of
this congregation have by _interior_ mortification to make up for what is
lacking in external austerities.

"This law of your Institute has been established out of consideration for
the weak and infirm, who may be admitted among you, and to whose service
the stronger members have to devote themselves. This is the reason why all
who purpose to enter the Order have to resolve to make war to the death
against their private judgment, and still more against their self-will
and self-love. This is why all ought to mortify all their passions and
affections, and absolutely to bend their understanding under the yoke of
obedience, to live, in short, no longer according to the old man, but
entirely according to the new man, in holiness and in justice. So to live
as to bear a continual cross even until death, and dying upon it, with the
Son of God, to say, _With Christ I am nailed to the Cross_, and _I live,
now not I, but Christ liveth in me._"[1]

[Footnote 1: Gal. ii. 19, 20.]


He always praised _common_ life very highly. His exalted opinion of its
merits made him refuse to allow the Sisters of the Visitation to practise
extraordinary austerities in respect to dress or food. For these matters
he prescribed rules such as can easily be observed by anyone who wishes to
lead a christian life in the world. His spiritual daughters, following this
direction, imitate the example of Jesus Christ, of His Blessed Mother, and
of the disciples of our Lord, who led no other kind of life. For the rest,
they have at all times to submit themselves to the discretion and judgment
of their superiors, whose duty it is to decide for them on the expediency
of extraordinary mortifications after hearing the circumstances of the case
of any individual sister.

Our Saint himself often, indeed, practised bodily mortifications, but
always with judgment and prudence, for he knew full well that the object of
such austerities is the preservation of purity of soul, not the destruction
of bodily health.

In one word, he practically set the life of Jesus Christ before that of St.
John the Baptist.


Although our Blessed Father has given you the fullest possible instructions
on this subject, in his seventeenth Conference, entitled, _On voting in a
Community_, I see that you are not quite satisfied in the matter.

I know very well that your dissatisfaction does not arise from any unworthy
motive, but only from a conscientious desire to do your duty to God, and
to the sisters whom you have in a way to judge. To relieve your minds of
doubt, I am about to supplement the teaching of that Conference with a few
thoughts suggested to me at various times by Blessed Francis himself, which
I put before you in words of my own.

In the first place, we must be careful never to confuse the terms
_vocation_ and _avocation_, for their meaning is very different.

An _avocation_ is the condition of life in which we serve God.

A _vocation_ is His call to that condition of life. When we call a servant
to command him to do something, the calling him is one thing, his obeying
and employing himself as directed quite another; and this, even if he do
the work precisely as he is told, and no more. Now, there are two sorts of
vocation. The first is the call to faith or grace; the second, the call to
a particular avocation in life.

To follow the first vocation, viz., to Faith, is necessary for salvation,
since he who refuses to listen to this call and to obey its voice risks
the loss of his immortal soul. A pagan or heretic called by God to embrace
Christianity or to submit to the Catholic Church, and to the end neglecting
this call, must needs be lost, for out of the true Church there is no
salvation. Again, if a member of the true Church who is spiritually dead in
mortal sin, refuse to listen to the call, or vocation, of preventing grace
which bids him return to God by confession, or by contrition of heart, he
is in a state of damnation.

Not so, however, with the second kind of call or vocation. As this is only
to some particular condition of life in the world or the cloister, although
we must not neglect it, but must listen with respect to what it may please
God to say to our heart, yet essentially it is not of vital importance to
the welfare of our soul that we should follow such a call, since, at the
most, it is but an inward counsel, which may be acted upon or not according
to our choice.

And now remember that the counsels given in Holy Scripture are not
precepts.[1] Our Blessed Father has often said that it would be not only
an error, but a heresy, to maintain that there is any kind of legitimate
calling or avocation in which it is impossible to save one's soul. On the
contrary, in each, grace is offered, by means of which we may safely walk
before God in holiness and justice all the days of our life.

To deny this would be to cut off from the hope of salvation, not thousands
only, but millions of men and women, those, namely, who are engaged all
their lives long in occupations which they have undertaken, not only
without a vocation from God, but sometimes even against their own

This is the teaching of this Blessed Father in his Philothea, where he
says, "It is an error, nay, a heresy, to wish to exclude the highest
holiness of life from the soldier's barrack, the mechanic's workshop, the
courts of princes, or the household of married people."

He used to say that it is not sufficient merely to love our calling, but
that our most earnest endeavours as true and faithful Christians should be
to strive to attain perfection in that same calling.

He remarked, too, that we do wrong to waste time in arguing as to what that
perfection consists in. The glory of God should be the one aim of every
devout soul.

Only by the practice of virtue can that final end be reached, and no virtue
unaccompanied by charity avails to attain to it. Therefore, charity is the
bond of all perfection, nay, itself is all perfection.

He attached much more importance to the spirit in which a vocation is
followed out, than to the mere fact of its being embraced.

And this because the salvation of our souls, which we shall owe to God's
grace, does not depend so much on the nature of our particular vocation or
calling, but on our own persevering faithful submission to the will of God,
which will of God is the salvation of us all.

Now, as we can save our souls, so we can also lose them in any calling

Would you desire a more unmistakable vocation than that of King Saul, or
one more glorious than that of Judas? Yet both were lost. Where will you
find one more troubled, and more interrupted by sin, than that of King
David? Yet in spite of all that happened to him, how happy was its issue.

The vocation of a certain young lady who resolved upon taking the veil, but
only out of a sort of despair, and because irritated against her family,
was nevertheless approved by our Blessed Father, who to justify his
approval gave the following explanation.

"As regards the vocation of this young lady, I consider it good, mingled
though it be in her mind with imperfections and desirable though it would
have been that she should have come to God simply and solely for the sake
of the happiness of being wholly His. Remember that those whom God calls to
Himself are not all drawn by Him with the same kind, or degree, of motives.

"There are but few who give themselves absolutely to His service from the
one only desire to be His, and to serve Him alone.

"Among the women whose conversion the Gospel has made famous, Magdalen
alone came through love, and with love.

"The adulteress came through public shame, the woman of Samaria from
private and individual self-reproach, the woman of Canaan in order to
be healed of bodily infirmity. Again, among the saints, St. Paul, the
first hermit, at the age of fifteen, took refuge in his cave to escape
persecution. St. Ignatius Loyola came through distress and suffering, and
so on with hundreds of others. We must not expect all to begin by being
perfect. It matters little how we commence, provided only that we are
firmly resolved to go on well, and to end well. Certainly Leah intruded
with scant courtesy into Rachel's promised place, as the wife of Jacob, yet
she afterwards conducted herself so irreproachably, and behaved with such
modesty and sweetness, that to her rather than to Rachel was vouchsafed the
blessing of being an ancestress of our Lord.

"Those who were compelled to come into the marriage feast in the Gospel,
ate, and drank of the best, nor, had they been the guests for whom the
banquet was prepared, could they have fared better. If, then, we would have
a pledge of their good living and perseverance, we must lock at the good
dispositions of those who enter Religion rather than at the motives which
impel them: for there are many souls who would not have entered the convent
at all if the world had smiled upon them, and whom we nevertheless may find
to be resolute in trampling under their feet the vanities of that same

[Footnote 1: 1 Cor. vii.]


"I know not," said our Blessed Father, on one occasion, "what this poor
virtue of prudence has done to me that I find it so difficult to love it:
if I do so at all, it is only because I have no choice in the matter,
seeing that it is the very salt of life, and a light to show us the way out
of its difficulties.

"On the other hand, the beauty of simplicity charms me. I would rather
possess the harmlessness of one dove than the wisdom of a hundred serpents.
I know that a combination of wisdom and simplicity is useful, and that the
Gospel recommends it to us;[1] but I am of opinion that in this matter it
should be as it is with certain medicines, in which a minute dose of poison
is mixed with many wholesome drugs. If the doses, of serpent and dove were
equal, I would not trust the medicine; the serpent can kill the dove, the
dove cannot kill the serpent. Besides, there is a sort of prudence that is
human and worldly which Scripture calls carnal wisdom,[2] as it is only
used for wrong-doing, and is so dangerous and so subtle that those who
possess it are unconscious of their own danger. They deceive others, yet
are the first to be themselves deceived.

"I am told that in an age so crafty as our own prudence is necessary, if
only to prevent our being wronged. I say nothing against this dictum, but
I do believe that more in harmony with the mind of the Gospel is that
which teaches us that it is great wisdom in the sight of God to suffer
men to devour us, and to take away our goods,[3] bearing the loss of them
joyfully, knowing that a better and a more secure substance awaits us. In
a word, a good Christian should always choose rather to be the anvil than
the hammer, the robbed than the robber, the victim than the murderer, the
martyr than the tyrant. Let the world rage, let the prudence of so-called
philosophy stand aghast, let the flesh despair; it is better to be good and
simple than clever and wicked."

[Footnote 1: Matt. x. 16.]
[Footnote 2: Rom. viii. 6.]
[Footnote 3: 2 Cor. xi. 20.]


Some of the friends of our Saint, actuated by this spirit of worldly
prudence, having seen the flattering reception given by the public to
his Philothea, which had at once been translated into various languages,
advised him not to write any more books, as it was impossible that any
other work from his pen should meet with equal success.

These remarks were unwelcome to our Blessed Father, who afterwards said to
me: "These good people no doubt love me, and their love makes them speak
as they do, out of the abundance of their hearts; but if they will only be
so good as to turn their eyes for a moment from me, vile and wretched as I
am, and fix them upon God, they will soon change their note; for if it has
pleased Him to give His blessing to that first little book of mine, why
should He deny it to my next? And if from little Philothea He made His
glory to shine forth, as He brought forth the light from darkness,[1] and
the sacred fire from the clay[2], is His arm thereby shortened, or His
power diminished? Can He not make living and thirst-quenching water flow
forth from the jaw-bone of an ass? But these good people do not dwell upon
such considerations; they think solely of my personal glory, as if we ought
to desire credit for ourselves, and not rather ascribe all to God, who
works in us whatever good seems to emanate from us.

"Now, according to the spirit of the Gospel, so far from its being right to
depend upon the applause of the world, St. Paul declares that if we please
men, we are not the servants of God,[3] the friendship of the world being
enmity with God. If then that little book has brought to me some vain
and unmerited praise, it would be well worth my while to build upon its
foundation some inferior work, so as to beat down the smoke of this
incense, and earn that contempt from men which makes us so much the more
pleasing to God, because we are thereby more and more crucified to the

[Footnote 1: Gen. i. 2, 3.]
[Footnote 2: Mach. i. 19, 22.]
[Footnote 3: Gal. i. 10.]


I once asked our Blessed Father if it was not better to take one single
point for mental prayer, and to draw from this point one single affection
and resolution, as I thought that by taking three points and deducing from
them very many affections and resolutions great confusion and perplexity
of mind were occasioned. He replied that unity and simplicity in all
things, but especially in spiritual exercises, must always be preferred to
multiplicity and complexity, but that to beginners, and to those little
skilled in this exercise, several points should be proposed so as fully to
occupy their minds.

I enquired whether, supposing that a single point were taken, it would not
be better to dwell likewise upon only one affection and resolution rather
than upon several. He answered that when Spring is richest in flowers, bees
make the least honey, because they are so delighted to flutter from flower
to flower that they do not give themselves time to extract the essence and
spirit of which they form their combs. Drones make a great deal of noise
and produce a very small result. And to the question whether it was not
better often to repeat and dwell upon the same affection and resolution,
rather than to develop and expand it by thinking it out, he replied that we
ought to imitate painters and sculptors, who work by repeating again and
again the strokes of their brush and chisel, and that in order to make a
deep impression on the heart it is often necessary to go over the same
thing many times.

He added that as those sink, who in swimming move their legs and arms too
rapidly, it being necessary to stretch them leisurely and easily, so also
those who are too eager in mental prayer, faint away in their thoughts,
their distracted meditations causing them only pain and dissatisfaction.

I am asked to explain that saying attributed by our Blessed Father to the
great St. Anthony, that he who prays ought to have his mind so fixed upon
God, as even to forget that he is praying. Here is the explanation in our
Saint's own words. He says in one of his Conferences: "The soul must be
kept steadfastly in this path (that, namely, of love and confidence in God)
without allowing it to waste its powers in continually trying to ascertain
what precisely it is doing and whether its work is satisfactory. Alas! our
satisfactions and consolations do not always satisfy God: they only feed
that miserable love and care of ourselves which has to do neither with God
nor with the thought of God. Certainly, children whom our Lord has set
before us as models of the perfection to be aimed at by us are, generally
speaking, especially in the presence of their parents, quite untroubled
about what is to happen. They cling to them without a thought of providing
for themselves. The pleasures their parents procure them they accept in
good faith and enjoy in simplicity, without any curiosity whatever as to
their causes or effects. The love they feel for their parents and their
reliance upon them is all they need. Those whose one desire is to please
the Divine Lover have neither inclination nor leisure to turn back upon
themselves, for their minds tend continually in the direction whither love
carries them."[1]

There is a saying of Tauler's, that holy man who wrote a book on mystic
theology, which our Blessed Francis held in high esteem, and was never
weary of inculcating upon those of his disciples who were anxious to lead a
devout life, or who, having already entered upon it, needed encouragement
to make progress in it. Tauler was asked where he, who was so great a
contemplative, and who held such close and familiar communication with God,
had found God. He answered, "Where I found myself." On being further asked
where he had found himself, he said, "Where I forgot myself in God."

He went on to say, "We must lose ourselves in order to find ourselves in
God, as it is written: _He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that
hateth his life in this--world keepeth it unto life eternal._[2] _No man
can serve two masters, God and mammon._[3] To follow one you must of
necessity quit the other. _There is no fellowship between light and
darkness or between Christ and Belial._[4]

"The two lovers who built, one the City of Jerusalem, the other the City of
Babylon, of whom St. Augustine speaks, have nothing in common. It is the
struggle of Esau and Jacob over again."

[Footnote 1: Conf. xii.]
[Footnote 2: John xii. 25.]
[Footnote 3: St. Matt. 24.]
[Footnote 4: Cor. vi. 14, 15.]


As the Saint's own ordinary and favourite spiritual exercise was the
practice of the presence of God, so he advised those whom he directed in
the ways of holiness to devote themselves most earnestly to recollection,
and to the use of frequent aspirations or ejaculatory prayers.

On one occasion I asked him whether there would be more spiritual loss in
omitting the exercise of mental prayer or in omitting that of recollection
and aspirations. He answered that the omission of mental prayer might be
repaired during the day or night by frequent withdrawal of the mind into
God and by aspirations to Him, but that mental prayer unaccompanied by
aspirations was, in his estimation, like a bird with clipped wings. He went
on to say that: "by recollection we retire into God, and draw God into
ourselves, as it is written: _I opened my mouth, and panted, because I
longed for Thy commandments_,[1] by which is meant the mouth of the heart
to which God always graciously inclines His ear. In the Canticle the bride
says that her Beloved led her into His _cellar of wine, he set in order
charity in me_.[2] Or, as another version has it, _He enrolled me under the
banner of His love_. Just as wine is stored up in vaults or cellars, and
as soldiers gather under their standards or banners; so all the faculties
of our soul gather together around the goodness and love of God by short
spiritual retreats, made from time to time throughout the day. But when are
they made, and in what place? At any moment, and in any place, and there
is no meal, or company, or employment, or occupation of any sort which can
hinder them, just as they on their part neither hinder nor interfere with
anything that has to be done. On the contrary, this is a salt which seasons
every kind of food, or rather a sugar which never spoils any sauce. It
consists only in inward glances from ourselves and from God, from ourselves
into God, and from God into ourselves, without pictures or speech, or any
outward aid; and the simpler this recollection is the better it is. As
regards aspirations, they also are short but swift dartings of the soul
into God, and can be made by a simple mental glance cast towards Him. _Cast
thy care_, or thoughts, _upon the Lord_,[3] says David. The more vigorously
an arrow is shot from the bow the more swift is its flight. The more
vehement and loving is an aspiration, the more truly is it a spiritual
lightning-flash. These transports or aspirations, of which we have so many
formulas, are the better the shorter they are. One of St. Bruno seems to me
excellent on account of its brevity: _O goodness of God_; that also of St.
Francis, _My God and my all_! and that of St. Augustine, _Oh! to love, to
go forward, to die to self, to reach God_!"

Our Blessed Father treats excellently of these two exercises in his
Philothea, and recommends them strongly, saying that they hold to one
another, as did Jacob and Esau at their birth, and follow one another,
as do respiration and aspiration. And just as in respiration we draw the
fresh outer air into our lungs, and by aspiration drive out that into which
the heat of our bodies has entered, so by the breath of recollection we
draw God into ourselves, or retire into God, and by aspirations we cast
ourselves into the arms of His goodness.

Happy the soul that often thus breathes, and thus aspires, for she abides
in God and God in her.

[Footnote 1: Psalm cxviii, 131.]
[Footnote 2: Cant. ii. 4.]
[Footnote 3: Psalm liv. 23.]


The two exercises which he especially recommended to his penitents were
interior recollection and ejaculatory aspirations and prayers. By them, he
said, the defects of all other spiritual exercises might be remedied, and
without them those others were saltless, that is, without savour. He called
interior recollection the collecting or gathering up of all the powers of
the soul into the heart, there to hold communion with God, alone with Him,
heart to heart.

This Blessed Francis could do in all places and at all hours without being
hindered by any company or occupations. This recollection of God and of
ourselves was the favourite exercise of the great St. Augustine, who so
often exclaimed: "Lord, let me know Thee, and know myself!" and of the
great St. Francis, who cried out: "Who art Thou, my God and my Lord? and
who am I, poor dust and a worm of the earth?" This frequent looking up to
God and then down upon ourselves keeps us wonderfully to our duties, and
either prevents us from falling, or helps us to raise ourselves quickly
from our falls, as the Psalmist says: _I set the Lord always in my sight:
for He is at my right hand, that I be not moved_.[1]

_Thou hast held me by my right hand; and by Thy will thou hast conducted
me, and with Thy glory Thou hast received me_.[2] He teaches us how to
practise this exercise in his Philothea, where, dealing with the subject of
aspirations or ejaculatory prayers, he says: "In this exercise of spiritual
retreat and ejaculatory prayers lies the great work of devotion. We may
make up for the deficiency of all other prayers, but failure in this can
scarcely ever be repaired. Without it we cannot well lead the contemplative
life, and can only lead the active life very imperfectly; without it repose
is idleness, and labour only vexation. This is why I conjure you to embrace
it with your whole heart, and never to lay it aside."[3]

[Footnote 1: Psalm xv. 8.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm lxxii. 24.]
[Footnote 3: Part ii. c. xii. and xiii.]


His opinion was that one ounce of suffering was worth more than a pound of
action; but then it must be of suffering sent by God, and not self-chosen.
Indeed, to endure pain which is of our own choosing is rather to do than
to suffer, and, speaking in general, our having chosen it spoils our good
work, because self-love has insinuated itself into our motives. We wish to
serve God in one way, while He desires to be served in another; we wish
_what_ He wishes, but not _as_ He wishes it. We do not submit ourselves
wholly and as we should do to His will.

A person who was very devout and who was accustomed to spend much time
in mental prayer, being attacked with severe headache, was forbidden by
her doctor to practise this devotion, as it increased her suffering and
prevented her recovery. The patient much distressed at this prohibition
wrote to consult our Blessed Father on the subject, and this is his reply:

"As regards meditation," he says, "the doctors are right. While you are
so weak, you must abstain from it; but to make up you must double your
ejaculatory prayers, and offer them all to God as an act of acquiescence
in His good pleasure, which, though preventing you from meditating, in no
way separates you from Himself, but, on the contrary, enables you to unite
yourself more closely to Him by the practice of calm and holy resignation.
What matters it how or by what means we are united to God? Truly, since
we seek Him alone, and since we find Him no less in mortification than in
prayer, especially when He visits us with sickness, the one ought to be as
welcome to us as the other. Moreover, ejaculatory prayers and the silent
lifting of the heart to God, are really a continued meditation, and the
patient endurance of pain and distress is the worthiest offering we can
possibly make to Him who saved us through suffering. Read also occasionally
some good book that will fill up what is wanting to you of food for the


Our Blessed Father considered that mortification without prayer is like a
body without a soul; and prayer without mortification like a soul without
a body. He desired that the two should never be separated, but that, like
Martha and Mary, they should without disputing, nay, in perfect harmony,
unite in serving our Lord. He compared them to the scales in a balance, one
of which goes down when the other goes up. In order to raise the soul by
prayer, we must lower the body by mortification, otherwise the flesh will
weigh down the soul and hinder it from rising up to God, whose spirit will
not dwell with a man sunk in gross material delights or cares.

The lily and the rose of prayer and contemplation can only grow and
flourish among the thorns of mortification. We cannot reach the hill of
incense, the symbol of prayer, except by the steep ascent on which we
find the myrrh of mortification, needed to preserve our bodies from the
corruption of sin.

Just as incense, which in Scripture represents prayer, does not give forth
its perfume until it is burned, neither can prayer ascend to Heaven unless
it proceeds from a mortified heart. Mortification averts temptations, and
prayer becomes easy when we are sheltered under the protecting wings of
mortification. When we are dead to ourselves and to our passions we begin
to live to God. He begins to feed us in prayer with the bread of life and
understanding, and with the manna of His inspirations. In fine, we become
like that pillar of aromatic smoke to which the Bride is compared,
compounded of all the spices of the perfumer.[1]

Our Blessed Father's maxim on this subject was that: "We ought to live in
this world as if our soul were in heaven and our body in the tomb."

[Footnote 1: Cant. iii. 6.]


The practice of recollection of the presence of God was so much insisted
upon by our Blessed Father that, as you know, my sisters, he recommended it
to your Congregation to be the daily bread and constant nourishment of your

He used to say that to be recollected in God is the occupation of the
blessed; nay, more, the very essence of their blessedness. Our Lord in
the Gospel says that the angels see continually, without interruption
or intermission, the face of their Father in heavens and is it not life
eternal to see God and to be always in His most holy presence, like the
angels, who are called the supporters of His throne.

You know that whenever you are gathered together for recreation, one of
you is always appointed as a sort of sentinel to watch over the proper
observance of this holy practice, pronouncing from time to time, aloud,
these words: "Sisters, we remind your Charities of the holy presence of
God," adding, if it has been a day of general communion, "and of the holy
communion of to-day."

Our Blessed Father on this subject says in his _Devout Life_: "Begin all
your prayers, whether mental or vocal, by an act of the presence of God,
Adhere strictly to this rule, the value of which you will soon realize."[1]

And again: "Most of the failures of good people in the discharge of their
duty come to pass because they do not keep themselves sufficiently in the
presence of God."

If you desire more instruction on the matter, read again what he has
written about it in the same book.

[Footnote 1: Part ii. chap. 1.]


_He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit_,[1] says St. Paul.

Our Blessed Father had arrived at that degree of union with God which is in
some sort a unity, because the will of God in it becomes the soul of our
will, that is, its life and moving principle, even as our soul is the life
and the moving principle of our body. Hence his rapturous ejaculation:
"Oh! how good a thing it is to live only in God, to labour only in God, to
rejoice only in God!"

Again, he expresses this sentiment even more forcibly in the following
words: "Henceforth, with the help of God's grace, I will no longer desire
to be anything to any one, or that any one be anything to me, save in God,
and for God only. I hope to attain to this when I shall have abased myself
utterly before Him. Blessed be God! It seems to me that all things are
indeed as nothing to me now, except in Him, for whom and in whom I love
every soul more and more tenderly."

Elsewhere he says: "Ah! when will this poor human love of attentions,
courtesies, responsiveness, sympathy, and favours be purified and brought
into perfect accordance with the all pure love of the Divine will? When
will our self-love cease to desire outward tokens of God's nearness and
rest content with the changeless and abiding assurance which He gives to
us of His eternity? What can sensible presence add to a love which God has
made, which He supports, and which He maintains? What marks can be lacking
of perseverance in a unity which God has created? Neither presence nor
absence can add anything to a love formed by God Himself."

[Footnote 1: 1 Cor. vi. 17.]


In one of his letters written to a person both virtuous and honourable, in
whom he had great confidence, he says: "If you only knew how God deals with
my heart, you would thank Him for His goodness to me, and entreat Him to
give me the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, so that I may rightly act
upon the inspirations of wisdom and understanding which He communicates to
me." He often expressed the same thought to me in different words. "Ah!" he
would say, "how good must not the God of Israel be to such as are upright
of heart, since He is so gracious to those even who have a heart like mine,
miserable, heedless of His graces, and earth-bound! Oh! how sweet is His
spirit to the souls that love Him and seek Him with all their might! Truly,
His name is as balm, and it is no wonder that so many ardent spirits follow
Him with enthusiastic devotion, eagerly and joyously hastening to Him, led
by the sweetness of His attractions. Oh! what great things we are taught
by the unction of divine goodness! Being at the same time illumined by
so soft and calm a light that we can scarcely tell whether the sweetness
is more grateful than the light, or the light than the sweetness! Truly,
the breasts of the Spouse are better than wine, and sweeter than all the
perfumes of Arabia.[1]

"Sometimes I tremble for fear that God may be giving me my Paradise in this
world! I do not really know what adversity is; I have never looked poverty
in the face; the pains which I have experienced have been mere scratches,
just grazing the skin; the calumnies spoken against me are nothing but
a gust of wind, and the remembrance of them dies away with the sound of
the voice which utters them. It is not only that I am free from the ills
of life, I am, as it were, choked with good things, both temporal and
spiritual. Yet in the midst of all I remain ungrateful and insensible to
His goodness. Oh! for pity's sake, help me sometimes to thank God, and to
pray Him not to let me have all my reward at once!

"He, indeed, shows that He knows my weakness and my misery by treating me
thus like a child, and feeding me with sweetmeats and milk, rather than
with more solid food. But oh, when will He give me the grace, after having
basked in the sunshine of His favours, to sigh and groan a little under the
burden of His Cross, since to reign with Him, we must suffer with Him, and
to live with Him, we must die together with Him? Assuredly we must either
love or die, or rather we must die that we may love Him; that is to say,
die to all other love to live only for His love, and live only for Him who
died that we may live eternally in the embrace of His divine goodness."

[Footnote 1: Cantic. i. 1, 2.]


Although he was himself very easily moved to tears, he did not set any
specially high value on what is called the gift of tears, except when it
proceeds, not from nature, but directly from the Father of light, who sends
His rain upon the earth from the clouds. He told me once that, just as
it would be contrary to physical laws for rain, in place of falling from
heaven to earth, to rise from earth to heaven; so it was against all order
that sensible devotion should produce that which is supernatural. For this
would be for nature to produce grace. He compared tears shed, in moments of
mental excitement, by persons gifted with a strong power of imagination,
to hot rains which fall during the most sultry days of summer, and which
scorch rather than refresh vegetation. But when supernatural devotion,
seated in the higher powers of the soul, breaking down all restraining
banks, spreads itself over the whole being of man, he compared the tears
it causes him to shed to a mighty, irresistible and fertilising torrent,
making glad the City of God. Tears of this sort, he thought much to be
desired, seeing that they give great glory to God and profit to the soul.
Of those who shed such tears, he said, the Gospel Beatitude speaks when it
tells us that: _Blessed are they that weep_.[1]

In one of his letters he writes as follows: "I say nothing, my good
daughter, about your imagining yourself hard of heart, because you have no
tears to shed. No, my child, your heart has nothing to do with this. Your
lack of tears proceeds not from any want of affectionate resolve to love,
God, but from the absence of sensible devotion, which does not depend at
all upon our heart, but upon our natural temperament, which we are unable
to change. For just as in this world it is impossible for us to make rain
to fall when we want it, or to stop it at our own good pleasure, so also it
is not in our power to weep from a feeling of devotion when we want to do
so, or, on the other hand, not to weep when carried away by our emotion.
Our remaining unmoved at prayer and meditation proceeds, not from any fault
of ours, but from the providence of God, who wishes us to travel by land,
and often by desert land, rather than by water, and who wills to accustom
us to labour and hardship in our spiritual life." On this same subject
I once heard him make one of his delightful remarks: "What!" he cried,
"are not dry sweetmeats quite as good as sweet drinks? Indeed they have
one special advantage. You can carry them about with you in your pocket,
whereas the sweet drink must be disposed of on the spot. It is childish
to refuse to eat your food when none other is to be had, because it is
quite dry. The sea is God's, for He made it, but His hands also laid the
foundations of the dry land, that is to say, of the earth. We are land
animals, not fish. One goes to heaven by land as easily as by water. God
does not send the deluge every day. Great floods are not less to be feared
than great droughts!"

[Footnote 1: Matt. v. 5.]


As the blessedness of the life to come is called joy in Scripture, _Good
and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord_, so also--it is in
joy that the happiness of this present life consists. Not, however, in all
kinds of joy, for the _joy of the hypocrite_ is _but for a moment_,[1] that
is to say, lasts but for a moment.

It is said of the wicked that they _spend their days in wealth, and in a
moment go down to hell_,[2] and that _mourning taketh hold of the end of
false joy._[3]

True, joy can only proceed from inward peace, and this peace from the
testimony of a good conscience, which is called _a continual feast_.[4]

This is that joy of the Lord, and in the Lord, which the Apostle recommends
so strongly, provided it be accompanied by charity and modesty.

Our Blessed Father thought so highly of this joyous peace and peaceful joy
that he looked upon it as constituting the only true happiness possible in
this life. Indeed he put this belief of his into such constant practice
that a great servant of God, one of his most intimate friends, declared him
to be the possessor of an imperturbable and unalterable peace.

On the other hand, he was as great an enemy to sadness, trouble, and undue
hurry and eagerness, as he was a friend to peace and joy. Besides all that
he says on the subject in his Philothea and his Theotimus, he writes thus
to a soul who, under the pretext of austerity and penance, had abandoned
herself to disquietude and grief: Be at peace, and nourish your heart with
the sweetness of heavenly love, without which man's heart is without life,
and man's life without happiness. Never give way to sadness, that enemy of
devotion. What is there that should be able to sadden the servant of Him
who will be our joy through all eternity? Surely sin, and sin only, should
cast us down and grieve us. If we have sinned, when once our act of sorrow
at having sinned has been made, there ought to follow in its train joy and
holy consolation.

[Footnote 1: Job xx. 5.]
[Footnote 2: Job xxi. 13.]
[Footnote 3: Prov. xiv. 13.]
[Footnote 4: Ibid. xv. 15.]


Loving devotion, or devout love, has three degrees, which are: 1. When we
perform those exercises which relate to the service of God, but with some
sluggishness. 2. When we betake ourselves to them with readiness. 3. When
we run and even fly to execute them with joy and with eagerness.

Our Blessed Father illustrates this by two very apt comparisons.

"Ostriches never fly, barn door fowls fly heavily, close to the ground, and
but seldom; eagles, doves, and swallows fly often, swiftly and high. Thus
sinners never fly to God, but keep to the ground, nor so much as look up to

"Those who are in God's grace but have not yet attained to devotion, fly
to God by their good actions rarely, slowly, and very heavily; but devout
souls fly to God frequently and promptly and soar high above the earth."[1]
His second comparison is this:

"Just as a man when convalescent from an illness walks as much as is
necessary, but slowly and wearily, so the sinner being healed from his
iniquity walks as much as God commands him to do, but still only slowly and
heavily, until he attains to devotion. Then, like a man in robust health,
he runs and bounds along the way of God's commandments; and, more than
that, he passes swiftly into the paths of the counsels and of heavenly
inspirations. In fact, charity and supernatural devotion are not more
different from one another than flame from fire, seeing that charity is
a spiritual fire, and when its flame burns fiercely is called devotion.
Thus devotion adds nothing to the fire of charity except the flame, which
renders charity prompt, active, and diligent, not only in observing the
commandments of God, but also in the practice of the counsels and heavenly

[Footnote 1: _The Devout Life_. Part i. c. i.]


It was his opinion that the touchstone of true devotion is the regulation
of exercises of piety according to one's state of life. He often compared
devotion to a liquid which takes the form of the vessel into which it is
put. Here are his words to Philothea on the subject [1]: "Devotion," he
says, "must be differently practised by a gentleman, by an artisan, by a
servant, by a prince, by a widow, by a maiden, by a wife, and not only
must the practice of devotion be different, but it must in measure and in
degree be accommodated to the strength, occupations, and duties of each
individual. I ask you, Philothea, would it be proper for a Bishop to wish
to lead the solitary life of a Carthusian monk? If a father of a family
were as heedless of heaping up riches as a Capuchin; if an artisan spent
the whole day in church like a monk; if a monk, like a Bishop, were
constantly in contact with the world in the service of his neighbour,
would not the devotion of each of these be misplaced, ill-regulated, and
laughable? Yet this mistake is very often made, and the world, which cannot
or will not distinguish between devotion and indiscretion in those who
think themselves devout, murmurs against and blames piety in general,
though in reality piety has nothing to do with mistakes such as these."

He goes on to say: "When creating them, God commanded the plants to bring
forth their fruits, each according to its kind; so He commands christians,
who are the living plants of His Church, to produce fruits of devotion,
each according to his state of life and calling."

At the close of the same chapter, our Blessed Father says: "Devotion or
piety, when it is real, spoils nothing, but on the contrary perfects
everything. Whenever it clashes with the legitimate calling of those who
profess it, you may be quite certain that such devotion is spurious. 'The
bee,' says Aristotle, 'draws her honey from a flower, without injuring that
flower in the least, and leaves it fresh and intact as she found it.'"

[Footnote 1: _The Devout Life_. Part i. c, 3.]


Some think that they are not making any progress in the service of God
unless they feel sensible devotion and interior joy continually, forgetting
that the road to heaven is not carpeted with rose leaves but rather
bristling with thorns. Does not the divine oracle tell us that through much
tribulation we must enter the Kingdom of Heaven? And that it is only taken
by those who do violence to themselves? Our Blessed Father writes thus to a
soul that was making the above mistake:

"Live wholly for God, and for the sake of the love which He has borne to
you, do you bear with yourself in all your miseries. In fact, the being a
good servant of God does not mean the being always spiritually consoled,
the always feeling sweet and calm, the never feeling aversion or repugnance
to what is good. If this were so, neither St. Paul, nor St. Angela, nor St.
Catherine of Siena, could have served God well. To be a servant of God is
to be charitable towards our neighbour, to have, in the superior part of
our soul, an unswerving resolution to follow the will of God, joined to
the deepest humility and a simple confidence in Him; however many times we
fall, always to rise up again; in fine, to be patient with ourselves in our
miseries, and with others in their imperfections."

Another error into which good people fall is that of always wanting to find
out whether or not they are in a state of grace. If you tranquillize them
on this point, then they begin to torment themselves as to the exact amount
of progress they have made, and are actually making, in this happy state of
grace, as though their progress were in any way their own work. They quite
forget that though one may plant and another water, it is God who gives the

In order to cure this spiritual malady, which borders very closely upon
presumption, he gives in another of his letters the following wise counsel:

"Remember that all that is past is nothing, and that every day we should
say with David: Now only am I beginning to love my God truly. Do much for
God, and do nothing without love, let this be your aim, eat and drink for


"Do not deceive yourself," he once said to me, "people may be very devout,
and at the same time very wicked." "But," I said, "they are then surely
not devout, but hypocrites!" "No, no," he answered, "I am speaking of true
devotion." As I was quite unable to solve this riddle, I begged him to
explain it to me, which he did most kindly, and, if I can trust my memory,
more or less as follows:

"Devotion is of itself and of its own nature a moral and acquired virtue,
not one that is supernatural and infused, otherwise it would be a
theological virtue, which it is not. It is then a virtue, subordinate to
that which is called Religion, and according to some is only one of its
acts;[1] as religion again is subordinate to one of the four cardinal
virtues, namely justice. Now you know that all the moral virtues, and even
the theological ones of faith and hope, are compatible with mortal sin,
although become, as it were, shapeless and dead, being without charity,
which is their form, their soul, their very life. For, if one can have
faith so great as to be able to move mountains, without charity, and yet,
precisely because charity is absent, be utterly worthless and wicked; if it
is possible to be a true prophet and yet a bad man, as were Saul, Balaam,
and Caiphas; to work miracles as Judas is believed to have done, and yet to
be sinful as he was; if we can give all our goods to the poor, and suffer
martyrdom by fire, without having charity, much more may we be devout
without being charitable, since devotion is a virtue less estimable in
its nature than those which we have mentioned. You must not then think it
strange when I tell you that it is possible to be devout and yet wicked,
since we may have faith, mercy, patience, and constancy to the extent of
which I have spoken, and yet, with all that be stained with many deadly
vices, such as pride, envy, hatred, intemperance, and the like."

"What then," I asked, "is a truly devout man?" He answered: "I tell you
again that, though in sin, one may be truly devout. But such devotion,
though a virtue, is dead, not living," I rejoined: "But how can this dead
devotion be real?" "In the same way," he replied, "as a dead body is a real
body, soulless though it be." I rejoined: "But a dead body is not really a
man." He answered: "It is not a true man, whole and perfect, but it is the
true body of a man, and the body of a true man though dead. Thus, devotion
without charity is true, though dead and imperfect. It is true devotion
dead and shapeless, but not true devotion living and fully formed. It
is only necessary to draw a distinction between the words, _true_, and
_complete_ or _perfect_, which is done so clearly by St. Thomas,[2] in
order to find the solution of your difficulty. He who possesses devotion
without charity has _true_, but not _perfect_ or _complete_ devotion; in
him who has charity, devotion is not only true but perfect. By charity he
becomes good, and by devotion devout; losing charity he loses supernatural
goodness and becomes sinful or bad, but does not necessarily cease to be
devout. This is why I told you that one could be devout and yet wicked.
So also by mortal sin we do not necessarily lose faith or hope, except we
deliberately make an act of unbelief or of despair."

He had expressed a somewhat similar idea in the first chapter of his
Philothea, though I had not then noticed it. These are his words:

"Devotion is nothing more than a spiritual agility and vivacity, helped
by which charity acts more readily; or better, helped by which we more
readily elicit acts of charity. It belongs to charity to make us keep God's
commandments, but it belongs to devotion to make us keep them promptly and
diligently. This is why he who does not observe all the commandments of God
cannot be considered either good or supernaturally devout, since in order
to be good we must have charity, and to be devout we must have besides
charity great alertness and promptitude in doing charitable actions."[3]

In another of his books, speaking to Theotimus, he says:

"All true lovers of God are equal in this, that all give their heart to
God, and with all their strength; but they are unequal in this, that they
give it diversely and in different manners, whence some give all their
heart, with all their strength, but less perfectly than others. This
one gives it all by martyrdom; this, all by virginity; this, all by the
pastoral office; and whilst all give it all by the observance of the
commandments, yet some give it with less perfection than others."[4]

We must remember that true devotion cannot be restricted to the practice of
one virtue only; we must employ all our powers in the worship and service
of God. One of the chief maxims of Blessed Francis was that the sort of
devotion which is not only not a hindrance but actually a help to us in our
legitimate calling is the only true one for us, and that any other is false
for us. He illustrates this teaching to Philothea by saying that devotion
is like a liquid which takes the shape of the vessel into which it is put.
He even went further, boldly declaring that it was not simply an error but
a heresy to exclude devotion from any calling whatever, provided it be a
just and legitimate one. This shows the mistake of those who imagine that
we cannot save our souls in the world, as if salvation were only for the
Pharisee, and not for the Publican, nor for the house of Zaccheus. This
error which approaches very nearly to that of Pelagius, makes salvation to
be dependent on certain callings, as though the saving of our souls were
the work of nature rather than of grace. Our Blessed Father supports his
teaching in this matter by many examples, proving that in every condition
of life we may be holy and may consequently save our souls, and arrive at a
very high degree of glory.

He concludes by saying: "Some even have been known to lose perfection
in solitude, which is often so helpful for its attainment, and to have
regained it in a busy city life which seems to be so unfavourable to it.
Wherever we are, we can and ought to aspire to the perfect life."

[Footnote 1: S. Thomas 2a, 2ae, Quaest, lxxxi., art. 2.]
[Footnote 2: 2a, 2ae, Quaest, lxxxii. to lxxxviii.]
[Footnote 3: _The Devout Life_, Part i., chap. 1.]
[Footnote 4: Book x., chap. 3.]


It is true that the devout life, which is nothing but an intense and
fervent love of God, is an angelic life and full of contentment and of
extraordinary consolation. It is, however, also true that those who submit
themselves to the discipline of God, even while experiencing the sweetness
of this divine love, must prepare their soul for temptation. The path
which leads to the Land of Promise is beset with difficulties--dryness,
sadness, desolation, and faint-hearted fears--and would end in bewildering
discouragement, did not Faith and Hope, like Joshua and Caleb, show us the
fair fruits of this much to be desired country, and thus animate us to

But He who brings light out of darkness, and roses out of thorns, who helps
us in all our tribulations, and performs wonders in heaven and earth, makes
the happy souls whom He leads through His will to His glory to find perfect
content in the loss of all content, both corporal and spiritual when once
they recognize that it is the will of God that they should go to Him by the
way of darkness, perplexity, crosses, and anguish.

In saying this I am putting into my own words the thoughts of our Blessed
Father as expressed in the eleventh chapter of the sixth book of his
_Treatise on the Love of God_.


Meditating this morning on that passage of Holy Scripture which tells us
that the life of man is in the good will of God,[1] I reflected that to
live according to the will of the flesh, that is, according to the human
will, is not really life, since the prudence of the flesh is death; but
that to live according to the will of God is the true life of the soul,
since the grace attached to that divine will imparts a life to our soul far
higher than the life our soul imparts to our body.

The divine will is our sanctification, and this sanctification is the gate
of eternal life; of that true life in comparison with which the life which
we lead on earth is more truly a death. To live in God, in whom is true
life, is to live according to His will.

Our life, then, is to do His will. This made St. Paul say that he lived,
yet not he himself, but that Jesus Christ lived in him,[2] because he had
only one will and one mind with Jesus Christ, I was rejoiced to find that
unconsciously my thoughts on this subject had followed closely in the
track of our Blessed Father's when he meditated on the same passage. This
I discovered on reading these words in one of his letters:

"This morning, being alone for a few moments, I made an act of
extraordinary resignation which I cannot put on paper, but reserve until
God permits me to see you, when you shall know it by word of mouth. Oh! how
blessed are the souls who live on the will of God alone. Ah! if even to
taste a little of that blessedness in a passing meditation is so sweet to
the heart which accepts that holy will with all the crosses it offers, what
must the happiness be of a soul all steeped in that will? Oh! my God, what
a blessed thing is it not to bring all our affections into a humble and
absolute subjection to the divine love! This we have said, this we have
resolved to do, and our hearts have taken the greatest glory of the love of
God for their sovereign law. Now the glory of this holy love consists in
its power of burning and consuming all that is not itself, that all may be
resolved and changed into it. God exalts Himself upon our annihilation of
ourselves and reigns upon the throne of our voluntary servitude."

[Footnote 1: Psalm xxix. 6.]
[Footnote 2: Gal. ii. 20.]


It happened that Blessed Francis fell ill at the very time when his
predecessor in the Bishopric of Geneva was imploring the Holy See to
appoint him as his coadjutor.

The illness was so serious that the physicians despaired of his life,
and this our Blessed Father was told. He received the announcement quite
calmly, and even joyfully, as though he saw the heavens open and ready to
receive him, and being entirely resigned to the will of God both in life
and in death, said only:

"I belong, to God, let Him do with me according to His good pleasure."

When someone in his presence said that he ought to wish to live if not
for the service of God at least that he might do penance for his sins,
he answered thus: "It is certain that sooner or later we must die, and
whenever it may be, we shall always have need of the great mercy of God: we
may as well fall into His pitiful hands to-day as to-morrow. He is at all
times the same, full of kindness, and rich in mercy to all those who call
upon Him: and we are always evil, conceived in iniquity, and subject to sin
even from our mother's womb. He who finishes his course earlier than others
has less of an account to render. I can see that there is a design afoot to
lay upon me a burden not less formidable to me than death itself. Between
the two I should find it hard to choose. It is far better to submit myself
to the care of Providence: far better to sleep upon the breast of Jesus
Christ than anywhere else. God loves us. He knows better than we do what is
good for us. _Whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord's._[1]
_He has the keys of life, and of death._[2] _They who hope in Him are never
confounded._[3] _Let us also go, and die with Him._" And when someone
said it was a pity he should die in the flower of his age (he was only
thirty-five), he answered: "Our Lord was still younger when He died. The
number of our days is before Him, He can gather the fruits which belong
to Him at any season. Do not let us waste our time and thoughts over
circumstances; let us consider only His most holy will. Let that be our
guiding star; it will lead us to Jesus Christ whether in the cribs or on
Calvary. Whoever follows Him shall not walk in darkness but shall have the
light of eternal life, and shall be no more subject to death."

These were the words, this was the perfect resignation, of our Blessed
Father. Who can say we have not here the cause of the prolongation of his
days, even as a like resignation led to the prolonging of those of King

[Footnote 1: Rom. xiv. 8]
[Footnote 2: Apoc. i. 18.]
[Footnote 3: Psalm xxiv. 3.]


In 1619, when our Saint was in Paris with the Prince of Savoy, a gentleman
of the court fell dangerously ill. He sent for Blessed Francis, who, when
visiting him, remarked with some surprise that, although he bore his
physical sufferings with great patience, he fretted grievously about other
troubles seemingly of very small moment. He was distressed at the thought
of dying away from home, at being unable to give his family his last
blessing, at not having his accustomed physician by his side, etc. Then he
would begin to worry about the details of his funeral, the inscription on
his tombstone, and so on. Nothing was right in his surroundings; the sky of
Paris, his doctors and nurses, his servants, his bed, his rooms, all were
matters of complaint. "Strange inconsistency!" exclaimed the holy Bishop.
"Here is a brave soldier and a great statesman, fretted by the merest
trifles, and unhappy because he cannot die in exactly the circumstances
which he would have chosen for himself." I am glad to be able to add that
in spite of all this the poor man made a holy and a happy end.

But Blessed Francis afterwards said to me: "It is not enough to will what
God wills, we must also desire that all should be exactly, even in the
minutest detail and particular, as God wills it to be. For instance, in
regard to sickness we should be willing to be sick because it pleases God
that we should be so; and sick of that very sickness which God sends us,
not of one of a different character; and sick at such time, and in such
place, and surrounded by such attendants, as it may please God to appoint.
In short, we must in all things take for our law the most holy will of


Many of the saints, and especially St. Catherine of Siena, St. Philip Neri,
and St. Ignatius Loyola, have spoken in the most beautiful and elevated
language of that holy indifference which, springing from the love of God,
makes life or death and all the circumstances of the one or the other
equally acceptable to the soul which realizes that all is ordered by the
will of God.

Let us hear what our Blessed Father says on this subject in his _Treatise
on the Love of God_.

"God's will is the sovereign object of the indifferent soul; wheresoever
she sees it she runs after the odour of its perfumes, directing her course
ever thither where it most appears, without considering anything else. She
is conducted by the divine will, as by a beloved chain; which way soever it
goes she follows it: she would prize hell with God's will more than heaven
without it; nay, she would even prefer hell before heaven if she perceived
only a little more of God's good-pleasure in that than in this, so that
if--to suppose what is impossible--she should know that her damnation would
be more agreeable to God than her salvation, she would quit her salvation
and run to her damnation."[1]

This is, indeed, a bold and daring proposition, but to convince you
how tenaciously he clung to it I would remind you of his words in the
Conferences;[2] on the same subject: "The saints who are in heaven are so
closely united to the will of God that if there were even a little more of
His good-pleasure in hell than in paradise they would quit paradise to go
there." And again in the same Conference: "Whether the malady conquers the
remedies or the remedies get the better of the malady should be a matter
of perfect indifference. So much so that if sickness and health were put
before us and our Lord were to say to us: 'If thou choose health I will not
deprive thee of a single particle of my grace, if thou choose sickness I
shall not in any degree increase that grace, but in the choice of sickness
there is a little more of my good-pleasure,' the soul which has wholly
forsaken herself and abandoned herself into the hands of our Lord will
undoubtedly choose sickness solely because it is more pleasing to God. Nay,
though this might mean a whole lifetime spent on her couch in constant
suffering, she would not for any earthly consideration desire to be in any
other condition than this."

[Footnote 1: Bk. ix., c. 5.]
[Footnote 2: Conf. ii.]


"Nothing happens to us," Blessed Francis was accustomed to say, "whether of
good or of evil, sin alone excepted, but by the will of God." Good, because
God is the source of all good. _Every best gift and every perfect gift is
from above, coming down from the Father of lights_.[1] Evil, for, _Shall
there be evil in the city which the Lord hath not done_?[2] The evil here
spoken of is that of pain or trouble, seeing that God cannot will the evil
of crime, which is sin, though he permits it, allowing the human will to
act according to the natural liberty which He has given to it. Properly
speaking, sin cannot be said to happen to us, because what happens to
us must come from without, and sin, on the contrary, comes from within,
proceeding from our hearts, as holy Scripture expressly states, telling us
also that _iniquity comes from our fatness_,[3] that is to say, from our
ease and luxury.

Oh, what a happiness it would be for our souls if we accustomed ourselves
to receive all things from the fatherly hand of Him who, in opening it,
fills all things living with blessing! What unction should we not draw
from this in our adversities! What honey from the rock, what oil from the
stones! And with how much moderation should we not behave in prosperity,
since God sends us both the one and the other, that we may use both to the
praise and glory of His grace.

[Footnote I: St. James i. 17.]
[Footnote II: Amos iii. 6.]
[Footnote III: Psalm lxxii. 7.]


I must confess to you, my sisters, that I was astonished to read in one of
our Saint's letters that our Lord Jesus Christ did not possess the quality
of indifference in the sensitive part of His nature.

I will give the exact words in which this wonderful fact is stated. "This
virtue of indifference," he says, "is so excellent that our old Adam, and
the sensitive part of our human nature, so far as its natural powers go,
is not capable of it, no, not even in our Lord, who, as a child of Adam,
although exempt from all sin, and from everything pertaining to sin, yet in
the sensitive part of his nature and as regards his human faculties was in
no way indifferent, but desired not to die upon the Cross. Indifference,
and the exercise of it, is entirely reserved for the spirit, for the
supreme portion of our nature, for faculties set on fire by grace, and in
fine for Himself personally, inasmuch as He is divine and human, the New
Man. How, then, can we complain when as far as this lower portion of our
nature is concerned we find ourselves unable to be indifferent to life,
and to death, to health, and to sickness, to honour and to ignominy, to
pleasure and to pain, to comfort and to discomfort, when, in a word, we
feel in ourselves that conflict going on which the vessel of election
experienced in such a manner as to make him exclaim: _Unhappy man that I
am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?_"[1]

The love of ourselves is so deeply rooted in our nature that it is
impossible wholly to rid ourselves of it. Even grace does not do away with
our self-love, but only reduces it to the service of divine charity.

By the love of self I mean a natural, just, and legitimate love, so
legitimate indeed as to be commanded by the law of God which bids us love
our neighbour as ourselves; that is to say, according to God's will, which
is not only the one way in which we can rightly love our neighbour, but
also the one way in which we are commanded to love ourselves.

Nevertheless, this love of ourselves, however just and reasonable it may
be, turns only too easily, and too imperceptibly, into a self-love, which
is unlawful and forbidden, but into which even persons the most earnest and
the most spiritual are at times surprised.

We often think we love someone, or something in God, and for God, when it
is really only in ourselves, and for ourselves, that we do so. We think
sometimes that we have only an eye to the interests of God, which is His
glory, when it is really our own glory which we are seeking in our work.
This is when we stop short voluntarily at the creature to the prejudice
of the Creator; as comes to pass in all sin, whether mortal or venial. We
must therefore watch and be constantly on our guard lest we fall into this
snare. From it we must snatch our soul as we would a bird from the snare
of the fowler. We shall be safe if we remember that every just and lawful
love in us is always either in actual touch with the love of God, or can be
brought into such touch, whilst self-love is never in such touch, nor can
ever be brought into it.

This is the test by which we can detect the false coin that is mixed up
with the true.

[Footnote 1: Rom. vii. 24.]


I cannot tell you, my sisters, how great a point our Blessed Father made
of self-abandonment, _i.e._, self-surrender into the hands of God. In one
place he speaks of it as: "The cream of charity, the odour of humility, the
flower of patience, and the fruit of perseverance. Great," he says, "is
this virtue, and worthy of being practised by the best beloved children
of God."[1] And again, "Our Lord loves with a most tender love those
who are so happy as to abandon themselves wholly to His fatherly care,
letting themselves be governed by His divine Providence without any idle
speculations as to whether the workings of this Providence will be useful
to them to their profit, or painful to their loss, and this because they
are well assured that nothing can be sent, nothing permitted by this
paternal and most loving Heart, which will not be a source of good and
profit to them. All that is required is that they should place all their
confidence in Him, and say from their heart, _Into Thy hands I commend my
spirit_, my soul, my body, and all that I have, to do with them as it shall
please Thee."[2]

You are inclined, my sisters, to say that we are not all of us capable of
such entire self-renunciation, that so supreme an act of self-abandonment
is beyond our strength. Hear then, too, what our Blessed Father goes on to
say. These are his words in the same Conference: "Never are we reduced to
such an extremity that we cannot pour forth before the divine majesty the
perfume of a holy submission to His most holy will, and of a continual
promise never wilfully to offend Him."

[Footnotes 1, 2: Conf. 2.]


As there are, more thorns than roses in our earthly life, and more dull
days than sunny ones, so also in our spiritual life our souls are more
frequently clouded by a sense of desolation, dryness, and gloom, than
irradiated by heavenly consolations and brightness.

Yet our Blessed Father says that "those are mistaken who think that, even
in Christians, whose conscience does not accuse them of sins unconfessed,
but on the contrary bears good witness for them, a heavy heart and
sorrow-laden mind is a proof of God's displeasure.

"Has God not said that He is with us in tribulation, and is not His Cross
the mark of the chosen? At the birth of Jesus, while the shepherds were
surrounded by the light which shone from heaven and their ears filled with
the songs of angels, Mary and Joseph were in the stable in the darkness of
night, the silence only broken by the weeping of the Holy Child. Yet who
would not rather be with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in that shadowy gloom
than with the shepherds even in their ecstasy of heavenly joy? St. Peter,
indeed, amid the glories of Thabor said: _It is good to be here, let us
make here three tabernacles_.[1] But Holy Scripture adds: _Not knowing what
he said_.

"The faithful soul loves Jesus covered with wounds and disfigurements on
Calvary, amid the darkness, the blood, the crosses, the nails, the thorns,
and the horror of death: loves Him, I say, as dearly, as fervently as in
His triumph, and cries out from a full heart amid all this desolation:

"Let us make here three tabernacles, one for Jesus, one for His holy
Mother, and one for His beloved disciple."

[Footnote 1: Luke ix, 33.]


There is, I think, no greater temptation than one which assails many good
people, namely, the desire to know for certain whether or not they are in a
state of grace.

To a poor soul entangled in a perfect spider's web of doubt and mistrust,
our Blessed Father wrote the following consoling words: "To try and
discover whether or not your heart is pleasing to God is a thing you must
not do, though you may undoubtedly try to make sure that His Heart is
pleasing to you. Now, if you meditate upon His Heart it will be impossible
but that it should be well pleasing to you, so sweet is it, so gentle, so
condescending, so loving towards those of His poor creatures who do but
acknowledge their wretchedness: so gracious to the unhappy, so good to the
penitent. Ah! who would not love this royal Heart, which to us is as the
heart both of a father and of a mother?"

As regards interior desolation there are some souls who seem to think
that no devotion is worthy of the name which is not sensible and full of

To one who complained to our Blessed Father of having lost all relish for
exercises of piety, he wrote in the following words: "The love of God
consists neither in consolations nor in tenderness--otherwise our Lord
would not have loved His father when He was sorrowful unto death, nor when
He cried out, _My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?_[1] That is to
say, then, when He performed the greatest act of love that it is possible
to imagine.

"The truth is, we are always hungering after consolation, for a little
sugar to be added to our spiritual food; in other words, we always want to
experience our feelings of love and tenderness, and thereby to be cheered
and comforted."

[Footnote 1: Matt. xxvii. 46.]


Faith teaches us, by means of the Holy Scriptures, that God ardently
desires that we should be saved,[1] and that none should perish. His will
is our sanctification, that is to say, He wishes us to be holy. Moreover,
to prove that His desire is neither barren nor unhelpful, He gives us in
His holy Church all the graces necessary for our salvation, so that if we
are lost it will only be because of our own wilful malice.

Unfortunately, however, though it may be that all desire to save their
souls, all are not willing to accept the means offered them for so doing.
Hence the disorders which we see in the world around us and the truth,
that, while many are called few are chosen. On this subject our Blessed
Father speaks as follows in his Theotimus:

"We are," he says, "to will our salvation in such sort as God wills it;
now He wills it by way of desire, and we also must incessantly desire it,
in conformity with His desire. Nor does He will it only, but, in effect,
gives us all necessary means to attain to it. We then, in fulfilment of the
desire we have to be saved, must not only wish to be saved, but, in effect,
must accept all the graces which He has provided for us, and offers us.
With regard to salvation itself, it is enough to say: I desire to be saved.
But, with regard to the means of salvation, it is not enough to say: I
desire them. We must, with an absolute resolution, will and embrace the
graces which God presents to us; for our will must correspond with God's
will. And, inasmuch as He gives us the means of salvation, we ought to
avail ourselves of such means, just as we ought to desire salvation in such
sort as God desires it for us, and because He desires it."[2]

[Footnote 1: 1 Tim. ii. 4.]
[Footnote 2: _The Love of God_. Bk. viii. 4.]


Blessed Francis always impressed upon us the necessity of making use for
the glory of God of any good inclinations natural to us. "If you possess
such," he would say, "remember that they are gifts, of which you will have
to render an account. Take care, then, to employ them in the service of Him
who gave them to you. Engraft upon this wild stock the shoots of eternal
love which God is ready to bestow upon you, if, by an act of perfect
self-renunciation, you prepare yourself to receive them."

There are people who are naturally inclined to certain moral virtues,
such as silence, sobriety, modesty, chastity, humility, patience, and
the like, and who, however little they may cultivate these virtues, make
great progress in them. This was the case with many of the great pagan
philosophers as we know, and it is quite true, that with all of us, the
bent and inclination of the mind towards the acquisition of any kind of
excellence, whether moral or physical, is an immense assistance. Still, we
must bear in mind the fact that the acquiring of every moral virtue and
every physical power, nay, of the whole world itself, is nothing, if, in
gaining them, we should lose our own soul. St. Paul tells us this,[1] and
for the same reason, our Blessed Father warns us not to keep our talents
wrapped up in a napkin, not to hide their light under the bushel of nature,
but to trade with them according to the intention of Him who is their
author and distributor. He reminds us that this divine Giver who bestowed
them on us in order thereby to increase His exterior glory, promises us
a reward if we use them as He means us to do, and threatens us with
punishment if we are careless in the matter.

You ask me how we are to deal with these inclinations and manage these
talents or virtues? Well, you have the answer to that question in the words
of our Blessed Father which I quoted: "Engraft on the wild stock of natural
inclination shoots of divine charity."

[Footnote 1: 1 Cor. xiii. 1, 3.]


St. Francis loved those words of St. Peter: _If any man speak, let him
speak as the words of God. If any man minister, let him do it as of the
power which God administreth_,[1] and of St. Paul: _All things whatsoever
you do, whether in word or in work, do them in the name_ (that is to say,
to the honour and glory) _of our Lord Jesus Christ_.[2]

That we may carry out this excellent precept in our actions, our Blessed
Father gives us some remarkable teaching. In one of his letters he says:
"We must never speak of God or of things relating to His worship, that
is, of religion, carelessly, and in the way of ordinary conversation, but
always with great respect, esteem, and devotion."

This advice applies to those who speak of God, and of religious matters
as they would of any ordinary topics of conversation, without taking into
account the circumstances of time, place, or persons. St. Jerome complained
of this abuse, saying that whilst there are masters and experts in every
art and science, only on matters of theology and Holy Scripture, the
foundations of all arts and sciences, can few be found to speak well. Yet
questions relating to them are discussed most flippantly at table, and in
public places; the hare-brained youth, the uneducated labourer, and the
dotard, give their opinions freely on the highest mysteries of the Faith.

Again, Blessed Francis says: "Always speak of God as of God, that is to
say, reverently and devoutly, not in a self-sufficient, preaching spirit,
but with gentleness, charity, and humility."[3]

In the same book he gives his advice to Philothea in the following words:
"Never, then, speak of God or of religion for form's sake, or to make
conversation, but always with attention and devotion. I tell you this,
that you may not be guilty of an extraordinary sort of vanity, which is
observable in many who profess to be devout. These people, on all possible
occasions, throw in expressions of piety and fervour without the least
thought of what they are saying, and, having uttered these phrases, imagine
that they themselves are such, as their words would indicate, which is not
at all the case."

[Footnote 1: 1 St. Peter iv. 11.]
[Footnote 2: Col. iii 17.]
[Footnote 3: Part iii., chap. 26.]


Blessed Francis had a great dislike of any kind of affectation or
singularity practised by devout persons, whether in Religious houses or in
the world. He went so far as to say that it rendered their piety not merely
offensive, but ridiculous.

He wished every one to conform as far as possible to the way of life proper
to his or her calling, without affecting any peculiarity. He gave as his
authority for this desire the example of our Lord, who, in the days of His
flesh, condescended to make Himself like to His brethren in all things
excepting sin.

The holy Bishop inculcated this lesson upon his penitents, not only by
word, but much more by his example. Never during the whole fourteen years
which, happily for me, I spent under his direction studying most closely
all his actions, his very gestures, his words, and his teaching; never, I
say, did I observe in him the faintest shadow of singularity.

I must confess to having, in order to find out exactly what he was,
practised a _ruse_, which some might think inexcusable or impertinent.
Every year he paid me a week's visit, and before he came I took care to
have some holes pierced in the doors or boarding of his rooms, that I might
closely observe his behaviour when quite alone. Well, I can truly say that
whatever he did, whether he prayed, read, meditated, or wrote, in his lying
down and in his rising up, at all times and in all circumstances, he was
the same--calm, unaffected, simple--his outward demeanour corresponding
with the interior beauty of his soul. Francis quite alone was the very same
as Francis in company. I think, myself, that this was the result of his
continual attention to the presence of God, a practice which he recommended
so strongly to all who were under his direction.

When he prayed, it was as though he saw the angels and the saints gathered
round him. He remained for hours calm, motionless as a statue, and
changeless in expression.

Never, even when alone, did he for the sake of greater comfort sit or stand
or assume attitudes other than those he permitted himself when in public.
He never so much as crossed his legs, or rested his head on his hand. The
unvarying but easy gravity of his demeanour naturally inspired an unfailing
love and respect.

He said that our exterior deportment should be like water which, the better
it is, the more is it tasteless.

I was much pleased on hearing a very famous and devout person,[1] whom
I met in Paris, say this to me about our Saint. That nothing brought so
vividly to his mind what the conversation of our Lord Jesus Christ must
have been among men, as the presence and angelic deportment of the holy
Bishop, of whom one might truly say that he was not only clothed with, but
absolutely full of, Jesus Christ. Nor will this appear strange to us if we
remember that the just soul, that is to say, the soul which is in a state
of grace, is said to be conformed to the image of the Son of God, and is
called a participator of the divine nature.

[Footnote 1: St. Vincent de Paul.]


He advised devout people to give in their names boldly, and without much
consultation, to the confraternities which they happened to meet with, so
as to become by this means participators of grace with all those who fear
God and live according to His law. He pitied the scruples of those good
souls who fear to enrol themselves, lest, as they ignorantly imagine, they
should sin by not fulfilling certain duties laid down in the rules given
for the guidance and discipline of these confraternities, but which are
rather recommended than commanded.

"For," he said, "if the rules of Religious Orders are not in themselves
binding under pain of either mortal or venial sin, how much less so are the
statutes of confraternities?

"The following out of the recommendations given to their members to do
certain things, to recite certain prayers, to take part in certain meetings
or processions, is a matter of counsel, and not of precept. To those who
perform such pious actions, Indulgences are granted, which those who do not
practise them fail to gain; but such failure, even if wilful, is not a sin.
There is much to gain, and nothing to lose."

On this subject he speaks thus to Philothea:

"Enter readily into the confraternities of the place in which you are
living, and specially into those whose exercises are the most fruitful and
edifying. In doing this, you will be practising a kind of obedience which
is very pleasing to God, and the more so because although the joining
confraternities is not commanded, yet it is recommended by the Church, who,
to show that she desires Catholics to enrol themselves therein, grants
Indulgences and other privileges to their members. Then, too, it is always
a charitable thing to concur and co-operate with others in their good
works. And although it may be that we should make quite as good exercises
by ourselves as we do in common with our fellow-members, yet we promote the
glory of God better by uniting ourselves with our brethren and neighbours,
and sharing our good deeds with them."[1]

[Footnote 1: Part ii., chap. 15.]


There are some good people whose zeal not being sufficiently tempered
with knowledge, as soon as they desire to give themselves up to a devout
life, fly from society and from intercourse with others as owls shun the
company of birds that fly by day. Their morose and unsociable conduct
causes a dislike to be taken to devotion instead of rendering it sweet
and attractive to all. Our Blessed Father was altogether opposed to such
moroseness, wishing His devout children to be by their example a light to
the world, and the salt of the earth, so as to impart a flavour to piety
which might tempt the appetite of those who would otherwise surely turn
from it with disgust. To a good soul who asked him whether Christians who
wished to live with some sort of perfection should see company and mix
in society, he answers thus: "Perfection, my dear lady, does not lie in
avoiding our fellow-men, but it does lie in not over-relishing social
pleasures and in not taking undue delight in them. There is danger for us
in all that we see in a sinful world, for we run the risk of fixing our
affections upon things worldly; at the same time to those who are steadfast
and resolute, the mere sight of the things of this world will do no harm.
In a word, the perfection of charity is the perfection of life, for the
life of our soul is charity. The early Christians, who were in the world in
their body though not in their heart, undoubtedly were very perfect."[1]

As regards the world's opinion of us, and the estimation in which we are
held by others, it is not well to be too sensitive. At the same time, to
be altogether indifferent about our reputation is blameworthy. Our Blessed
Prelate teaches his Philothea exactly what we have to do:

"If," he says, "the world despises us, let us rejoice, for it is right--we
see for ourselves that we are very contemptible. If it esteems us, let us
despise its esteem and its judgment, for it is blind. Trouble yourself
very little about what the world thinks; do not ask or even care to know.
Despise equally its appreciation and its contempt, and let it say what
it will, good or evil. I do not approve of doing what is not right, that
people may have a bad opinion of us. Transgressing is always transgressing,
and we are thereby making our neighbour transgress likewise. On the
contrary, I desire that, keeping our eyes always fixed upon our Lord, we do
what we have to do without regarding what the world thinks of us, or its
behaviour towards us. We need not endeavour to give others a good opinion
of ourselves, yet neither have we to try to give a bad one, and especially
must we be careful not to do wrong with this intent.

"But we can never stand quite well with the world; it is far too exacting.
If out of compliance we yield to it, and play and dance with it, it will be
scandalized; and if we do not, it will accuse us of hypocrisy and gloom;
if we are well-dressed it will impute to us some bad motive; and if we are
ill-dressed it will call us mean; it will style our gaiety dissoluteness
and our mortification gloom. It will exaggerate our failings and publish
our faults; and if it cannot find fault with our actions it will attack our
motives. Whatever we do the world will find fault. If we spend a long time
at confession it will ask what we can have to say; if we take but a short
time, it will say that we do not tell everything. If one little cross word
escape us it will pronounce our temper unbearable; it will denounce our
prudence as avarice, our gentleness as folly. Spiders invariably spoil the
bees' labour. Therefore, do not mind what opinion the world has of you,
good or bad; do not distress yourself about it, whichever it be. To say
that we are not what the world thinks, when it speaks well of us, is wise,
for the world, like a quack doctor, always exaggerates."

You question me, regarding the contempt which we should feel for the world
and the world's opinion of us; in other words you want to know exactly
what St. Paul means when he says that, being crucified to the world and
the world to us, we should glory only in the Cross of our Saviour Jesus

This seems to you a paradox; light evolved from darkness, and glory from
shame. Let me remind you that the Christian religion is full of such
paradoxes, and that we belong to an all-powerful God, who has given life to
us by His death; who has healed us by His wounds, and who makes us rich by
His poverty. I cannot, however, explain the difficulty to you better than
by quoting the words of our Blessed Father in one of his letters. He says:
"In this alone lies our glory, that our divine Saviour died for us, the
Master for His slaves, the just for the unjust."

[Footnote 1: Cf. _The Devout Life_. Part iv., c. 7.]
[Footnote 2: Galat. vi. 14.]


Blessed Francis advised his penitents to avoid above all things, excessive
eagerness, which, in his view, is the mortal foe of true devotion. He says:
"It is far better to do a few things well than to undertake many good works
and leave them half done."

This was the mistake of the man in the Gospel who began to build and was
not able to finish because he had not counted the cost beforehand. There
are some who think they are never doing well unless they are doing much.
They are like the Pharisees who considered the perfection of prayer to
consist in its length. Our Lord reproves them for this and much more for
devouring widows' houses with their long prayers. In one of his Conferences
the Saint speaks thus: "It is not by the multiplicity of things we do that
we acquire perfection, but by the perfection and purity of intention with
which we do them."

And this is what he says on the subject in his Theotimus: "To do few
actions but with great purity of intention and with a firm will to please
God, is to do excellently. Such greatly sanctify us. Some men eat much, and
yet are ever lean, thin, and delicate, because their digestive power is
not good; there are others who eat little, and yet are always in excellent
health and vigorous, because their stomach is good. Even so, there are
some souls that do many good works and yet increase but little in charity,
because they do those good works either coldly and negligently, or have
undertaken them rather from natural instinct and inclination than because
God so willed and with heaven-given fervour. On the contrary, others
there are who get through little work, but do it with so holy a will; and
inclination, that they make a wonderful advancement in charity; they have
little talent, but they husband it so faithfully that the Lord largely;
rewards them for it."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Love of God_. B. xii., c. 7.]


Our Blessed Father always insisted on the necessity of discretion as
well as charity in our devotion, and warned us against that want of
self-restraint and calmness, which he called eagerness. This, he said, is,
indeed, the _remora_ of true devotion, and its worst enemy, the more so
because it decks itself in the livery of devotion, in order more easily
to entrap the unwary and to make them mistake zeal without knowledge for
genuine fervour.

He was very fond of that saying of an ancient Emperor: "Make haste
slowly," and of another: "Soon enough, if well enough." He would rather
have a little done thoroughly well, than a great deal undertaken with
over-eagerness. One of his favourite maxims was "Little and good." In order
to persuade us that he was right, he used to warn us against thinking that
perfection depends on the number of our good works, exterior or interior.
When asked what then became of that insatiable love of which the masters of
the spiritual life speak, that love which never thinks that it has reached
the goal, but is always pressing on farther and farther, spanning the whole
extent of heaven with giant strides, he answered: "The tree of that love
must grow at the roots, rather than by the branches." He explained his
meaning thus: To grow by the branches is to wish to perform a great number
of good works, of which many are imperfect, others superfluous like the
useless leaves which overload the vine, and have to be nipped off before
the grapes can grow to any proper size. On the other hand we grow at the
roots when we do only a few good works, but those few most perfectly, that
is to say, with a great love of God, in which all the perfection of the
Christian consists. It is to this that the Apostle exhorts us when he bids
us be rooted and grounded in charity if we would comprehend the surpassing
charity of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. True devotion, he used to say,
should be gentle, tranquil, and discreet, whereas eagerness is indiscreet,
tempestuous, and turbulent.

Especially he found fault with the eagerness which attempts to do several
things at once. He said it was like trying to thread more than one needle
at a time. One of his favourite mottos was: "Sufficient to the day is the
labour thereof."

When he was reproached, as he sometimes was, with bestowing such earnest
and undivided attention on the most trivial concerns of the people who came
to him for sympathy and advice, he answered: "These troubles appear great
to them, and, therefore, they must be consoled, as if they really were so.
God knows, too, that I do not want any great employment. It is perfectly
indifferent to me what my occupation is so long as it is a serving of Him.
To do these small works is all that is, at the time being, asked of me. Is
not doing the will of God a work great enough for anyone? We turn little
actions into great ones when we perform them with a supreme desire to
please God, who measures our services, not by the excellence of the work we
do, but by the love which accompanies it, and that love by its purity, and
that purity by the singleness of its intention."


He was a great enemy to every sort of spiritual restriction and constraint,
and was fond of quoting the words of St. Paul: _Where the spirit of God is,
there is liberty_.[1] And again: _You are redeemed with a great price, do
not make yourselves slaves again_.[2] He had advised a lady of rank to work
with her own hands, in order to avoid sloth, and, as she was well to do,
he suggested to her to devote her manual labour to the adornment of altars
or to the service of the poor, following the advice of the Apostle, who
counsels us to labour with our hands to provide for the wants of the needy.
This lady, who always followed his suggestions to the very letter as if
they were commands, having done some little piece of work for herself, felt
a scruple about the matter, as though she had failed in the exact obedience
which she had resolved to yield, not only to the commands of the holy
Prelate, but even to his opinions. She therefore, asked him if she ought
to give in alms exactly what a piece of work she had done for herself was
worth. Moreover, having been advised to fast on Fridays she wished, she
said, in order to gain more merit to make a vow that she would always
practise this mortification.

Here is his reply: "I approve of your Friday fasts, but not that you should
make any vow to keep them, nor that you should tie yourself down, tightly
in such matters. Still more do I approve of your working with your hands,
spinning and so forth, at times when nothing greater or more important
claims your attention, and that what you make should be destined either for
the altar or for the poor, I should not, however, like you to keep to this
so strictly, that if it should happen that you do something for yourself or
for your family you should feel obliged to give the poor the value of your
work. For, holy liberty and freedom must reign, and we must have no other
law than love, which, when it bids us to do some kind of work for our own
family or friends, must not be looked upon as if it had led us to do wrong.
Still less does it require us to make amends, as you wished to do seeing
that whatever it invites us to take in hand, whether for the rich or for
the poor, is equally pleasing to our Lord." What do you think of this
doctrine, you who go by rule and measure in valuing an act of virtue? Is
liberality displayed towards the rich, in your opinion, worth as much as
alms given to the poor? See now, this holy Bishop follows a very different
rule, and measuring the one action and the other by the golden standard of
charity, esteems them as equal, provided both be done with equal charity.

[Footnote 1: II. Cor. iii. 17.]
[Footnote 2: Cor. vii. 23]


In certain minds there seems always to lurk some remains of Pelagianism, a
hydra from which though bruised and crushed by the Church--the pillar and
bulwark of the Truth--new heads are ever springing forth.

Many, as I am willing to believe, from lack of consideration, ascribe too
much to nature, and too little to grace, making too great capital of the
matter of moral virtues, and too little of the manner in which they are
practised. These people forget that in our works God does not regard how
much we do, but with how much love we do it, _non quantum, sed ex quanta_,
in the language of the schools.

On this subject our Blessed Father gives the following excellent advice to
a pious person who, because she had to devote the greater part of her time
to household affairs and to mix a good deal in society was discouraged, and
thought it almost impossible for her to lead a devout life.

"Do not," he says, "look at all at the substance of the things which you
do, but rather, poor though they be, at the honour by which they are
ennobled, that of being willed by God, ordered by His Providence, and
arranged by His wisdom, in a word, that of being pleasing to God. And
if they please Him, whom can they reasonably offend? Strive, my dearest
daughter, to become every day more pure in heart.

"This purity of heart consists in setting on all things their true value,
and in weighing them in the balance of the sanctuary, which balance is only
another name for the wilt of God." In the same way in his Theotimus he
teaches that acts of the lesser virtues are often more pleasing to God, and
consequently more meritorious, because done with great love, than the most
splendid virtues when practised with less of heavenly charity. Charity is
the pure gold which makes us rich in immortal wealth.


Blessed Francis was not at all fond of too much self-introspection, or of
the habit of turning an unimportant matter over and over a hundred times in
the mind. He called this pernicious hair-splitting; or, with the Psalmist:
"Spinning spiders' webs."[1] People given to it he used to say are like the
silkworm, which imprisons and entangles itself in its own cocoon. In his
twelfth Conference he speaks further on this subject.

"The soul," he says, "which is wholly bent on pleasing its divine Lover,
has neither desire nor leisure to fall back upon itself. It presses on
continually (or should do so) along the one straight path which has that
love for its aim, not allowing itself to waste its powers in continual
self-inspection for the purpose of seeing what it is doing or if it is
satisfied. Alas! our own satisfactions and consolations do not satisfy God,
they only feed that miserable love and care of ourselves which is quite
apart from God and the thought of Him."

A great deal of time is wasted in these useless considerations which would
be far better employed in doing good works.

By over considering whether we do right, we may actually do wrong.

St. Anthony was once asked how we might know if we prayed properly. "By not
knowing it at all," he answered. He certainly prays well who is so taken up
with God that he does not know he is praying. The traveller who is always
counting his steps will not make much headway.

[Footnote 1: Cf. Ps. lxxxix. 10.]


Our Blessed Father used to say that, generally speaking, grace worked as
nature, and not as art, does. Art only reproduces what appears outwardly as
in painting and sculpture, but nature begins her work from within, so that
in a living creature the internal organs are formed before the skin, whence
the saying that the heart is the first living part of man.

When, therefore, he wished to lead souls on from a worldly to a devout
life, he did not at first suggest changes in the exterior, in the dressing
of the hair, in the fashion of garments, and so on. No, he spoke only to
the heart, and of the heart, knowing that when once that stronghold is
gained, nothing else can resist.

"When a house is on fire, said he, see how all the furniture is thrown out
of the window! So is it when the heart is possessed by true love of God,
all that is not of God seems then to it of no moment at all. _If a man_,
says the Canticle of Canticles _give all his riches for love he will think
that he has done nothing_."[1]

I will give you a trifling illustration of this teaching which may be
useful to you. A lady of high rank, having placed herself under the
direction of the holy Prelate, became more and more assiduous in attending
the services of the Church, spending much time in prayer and meditation,
and, in what leisure was left her from her household cares, visiting the
sick and poor. Her friends and acquaintances, however, observed with
surprise that she made no change at all in external matters, that her
dress was as rich as ever, and that she laid aside none of her magnificent

This so scandalized them that they began to murmur openly, not only against
her, but also against her director. They even went so far as to accuse her
of hypocrisy, forgetting that a hypocrite always tries to appear better in
the eyes of others than he really is, whereas she, in spite of interior
amendment, remained quite unchanged in her exterior.

The truth was that she did not in the least care for her ornaments, but as
it was her husband's will that she should dress as before, she followed
the example of Esther, who, though she detested all vain pomp and show, to
please Assuerus, decked herself out with magnificence.

On one occasion some busybody told our Blessed Father that this lady,
devout though she was, had not even given up wearing ear-rings, and
expressed great surprise that he who was so good a confessor had not
advised her to have done with the like vanities. To all this Francis
replied with his accustomed gentleness, and with a touch of humour: "I
assure you, I do not know that she has got ears, much less ear-rings in
them. She always comes to confession with her head so completely enveloped
in a great hood or scarf that I cannot see so much as its shape. Then, too,
let us remember that the saintly Rebecca of old, who was quite as virtuous
as this lady, lost nothing of her sanctity by wearing the ear-rings which
Eleazer presented to her as the gift of his master Isaac!"

Thus did our Blessed Father deal with matters which are a stumbling-block
to the weak and foolish, showing how true it is that all things work
together for good to those who are good, and that to the pure all things
are pure.

[Footnote 1: Cant. viii. 7.]


All Christians ought to be not only devout but absolutely devoted to the
most Blessed Trinity. It is the most august and fundamental of all our
mysteries; it is that to which we are consecrated by our entrance into the
holy Church, for we are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and
of the Holy Ghost.

But you, my sisters, ought in an especial manner to be devoted to this
great and ineffable mystery, remembering the wonderful vision which our
Blessed Father, your founder, had on the day of his episcopal consecration.
In that sublime vision Almighty God showed him most clearly and
intelligibly that the three adorable Persons of the most Holy Trinity were
operating in his soul, producing there special graces which were to aid him
in his pastoral office, at the very moment that the three Bishops who were
consecrating him, blessed him, and performed all the holy ceremonies which
render this action so great and so solemn. Thenceforth he always regarded
himself as consecrated to the ever-Blessed Trinity and as a vessel of
honour and sanctification.

Then, too, in the year 1610, he both founded and opened your Institute
on the day dedicated by the Church to the memory and adoration of that
incomprehensible mystery. Trinity Sunday that year happening to fall on the
Feast of St. Claude, he gave you that saint as your special intercessor
with the most Holy Trinity.

Again, you Congregation began with three members only, and this of set
purpose, in order to honour the Blessed Trinity as well as to accomplish
what is written in the Gospel, that when two or three are gathered together
in the name, that is to say, for the glory of God, He will be in the midst
of them, and will animate and govern them by His spirit; the spirit of
love, unity, and concord, which makes us keep the unity of the spirit in
the bond of peace, and renders us one through love, as the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Ghost are one only, in nature, essence, and substance. It is
this peace of God, passing all understanding, which has up to the present
time kept all the convents of your Order in unity. Woe to him who shall
break down this defence and rampart! May the ever-Blessed Trinity avert
this misery, and both regard and preserve you always, as adopted daughters
of the Father, adopted sisters of the Son, and spouses of the Holy Ghost!


Astrologers, as you know, make a great point of observing what star is
rising on the horizon at the moment of a person's birth. They call it the
ascendant, and it forms, as it were, the apex of their horoscope. Well,
this is an idle fancy, but we may draw from it a useful suggestion. It
would be good for us to notice what star was in the ascendant in the
heavens, that is to say, what blessed Saint's feast day illumined the
heaven of the Church militant at the moment of our birth. I cannot tell you
how much this knowledge has helped many a soul.

Ah! how bright and glorious an ascendant our Blessed Father had! seeing
that he was born under the very sign and protection of the Mother of God,
on one of the days in the Octave of her Assumption, August 21st, 1567.

No wonder that he always had a special devotion to her and showed it
in every possible way; among others, in giving her name to many of the
confraternities and congregations established by him in the Church. No
wonder either that he had so great a love of purity, and that under the
protection, and with the assistance of the Queen of Virgins, he should have
consecrated himself to God in holy virginity and continence.

You know that it was on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception that he
received episcopal consecration, and at the same time that inward unction
which we learn so much of from the history of his life.

He also dedicated his Theotimus[1] to the Queen of Sovereign Charity, and
preached continually and with extraordinary sweetness and fervour upon the
perfections and greatness of that divine Mother.

Finally, my dear sisters, there was nothing that he recommended so much to
his spiritual children as this devotion to the Blessed Virgin. You, indeed,
more than all others, ought to bear witness to this, seeing that he made
you daughters of holy Mary, under the title of the Visitation, marked
thereby to distinguish you from so many other congregations consecrated to
the honour and service of God under the title of Our Lady.

His devotion to our Blessed Lady was, indeed, as might have been expected
from one so single-minded and sincere as he, eminently practical, From his
earliest youth he sought her protection and aid in all difficulties and
temptations. When he was pursuing his studies while at college in Paris,
the evil spirit was permitted by God to insinuate into his mind the
terrible idea that he was one of the number of the damned. This delusion
took such possession of his soul that he lost his appetite, was unable to
sleep, and day by day grew more and more wasted and languid. His tutor
and director noticing how his health was affected and how pale, listless,
and joyless he had become, often questioned him as to the cause of his
dejection and evident suffering, but his tormentor who had filled his mind
with this delusion, being what is called a dumb devil, the poor youth could
give no explanation.

For one whole month he suffered this mental torture, this agony of soul. He
had lost all the sweetness of divine love, but not, happily, his fidelity
to it. He looked back with bitter tears to the happy time when he was, as
it were, inebriated with that sweetness, nor did any ray of hope illumine
the darkness of that night of despair.

At last, led by a divine inspiration, he entered a church to pray that this
agony might pass.

On his knees before a statue of the Blessed Virgin he implored the
assistance of the Mother of Mercy with tears and sighs, and the most
fervent devotion.

He ended by reciting the _Memorare_, that devout prayer attributed to St.
Augustine or St. Bernard, and which was such a favourite with our Blessed
Father and taught by him to all his penitents.

I may here mention that it was from his lips that I first learnt that
prayer, that I wrote it down in the beginning of my breviary, and have made
constant use of it in all my necessities.

But, to return to my story. No sooner had he finished this appeal to the
Mother of Mercy than he began to experience the power of her intercession.
He seemed to hear the voice of God within him saying: "I am thy salvation:
Oh! man of little faith, wherefore dost thou doubt? Thou art mine and I
will save thee; have confidence; I am He who has overcome the world."

Then, in a moment, the devil departed from him; the delusions with which
that wicked one had filled his mind vanished; joy and consolation took
their place; where darkness had reigned light assumed the empire, and
Francis felt he could never sufficiently thank God for this deliverance.

Can you wonder that after such a battle and such a victory won through
the intercession of the Mother of God he always advised those who were
undergoing temptation to have recourse to her powerful aid? She is indeed
_terrible_--to our foes--_as an army in battle array, and a tower of
strength against the face of our enemies_; and what marvel seeing that it
is she who has crushed the serpent's head?

[Footnote 1: _The Treatise on the Love of God_.]


With regard to our Blessed Father's explanation of his special devotion
to the Holy Winding Sheet, as connected with circumstances preceding his
birth, I may here say a few words.

He was born, as you know, on the 21st of August, 1567. His mother was
then very young, not quite fifteen, and frail and delicate in health. It
happened that at that very time the Holy Winding Sheet, then in the Chapel
of Chambery, was, by command of His Highness of Savoy, and at the request
of the Princess Anne d'Este, wife, by her second marriage, of James of
Savoy, Duke of Nemours and Prince of Geneva, brought to Annecy. Charles,
Cardinal of Lorraine, and Louis, Cardinal of Guise, were at the time at
Annecy, where the sacred relic was displayed with great solemnity and
exposed to the veneration of the multitudes who flocked to the place from
all parts.

Among these crowds came the father and mother of Blessed Francis, and we
may well believe that God made use of this holy relic to imprint upon both
the mother and the unborn child some special influence of grace.

There is another winding sheet at Besancon (for our Lord was buried
in two, Holy Scripture itself suggesting this by the use of the word
_linteamina_,[1] linen cloths), that city being the metropolis of the
ecclesiastical province, in which the Bishopric of Belley is situated.

One day when our Blessed Father was passing by the place the authorities
had the relic exposed in his honour, and begged him to preach upon the
subject. He did so, with tears of emotion and such a torrent of vehement
eloquence, as went straight to the hearts of all who listened to him.

In his own diocese he took care to have the feast of the Holy Winding Sheet
kept in all the churches. He generally himself preached on that day, and
always with much feeling and devotion.

He had a most special devotion to the Holy Winding Sheet, as it is to be
seen at Turin. He had it copied or represented in all sorts of different
ways, or, I should rather say, by all sorts of different arts; in
embroidery, in oil painting, in copperplate, in coloured engraving, in
miniature, in demi-relief, in etching. He had it in his chamber, his
chapel, his oratory, his study, his refectory; in a word, everywhere.

On one occasion I asked him the reason of this. He answered: "It is the
great treasure of the House of Savoy, the defence of the country; it is our
great relic; more than this, it is the miraculous picture of the sufferings
of Jesus Christ, traced with His own blood. And then, too, I have a special
reason for my devotion to this holy relic, seeing that before I was born my
mother dedicated me to our Lord, while contemplating this sacred standard
of salvation.

"It is said that he who carries the standard into battle, rather than
surrender it to the enemy, should wrap its folds round his body and glory
in so dying. Ah! What a happiness it would he if we could thus fold round
about us the Holy Winding Sheet, buried with Jesus Christ for love of Him,
in whom we are buried by baptism."

[Footnote 1: Luke xxiv. 12.]


Every good work can, as you know, have four qualities: it can be
meritorious, satisfactory, consolatory, or impetratory.

In order to have the two first qualities it must be performed when we are
in a state of grace; that is to say, through the motive of charity, or, at
least, in charity.

But the two last it can have, although imperfectly, without charity; for
how many sinners there are who feel consolation in doing works which are
morally good, and how many who in praying impetrate graces and favours from
the mercy of God.

Between the two first qualities of good works there is this difference,
that the first abides with and belongs wholly and entirely to the
person who performs the work, and cannot be communicated; that power of
communication being reserved solely for the merits of Jesus Christ our
Lord, which do not stop short, as it were, and end in Him, but can be, and,
in fact, are, communicated to us. Neither the saints in heaven nor those on
earth have power to communicate to us one tittle of their merits; not the
former, because in glory they are rewarded far beyond their deserving;
not the latter, because they have not yet reached the goal, and whatever
sanctity they may possess, they may, through sin, fall away from it, and
all have need of the grace and mercy of God to keep them from so falling.

The second quality, however, is communicable, because we can share in the
necessities of one another, and can make satisfaction one for another;
spiritual riches being no less communicable than temporal ones, and the
abundance of some being able to relieve the starvation of others. Hear what
our Blessed Father says on this subject in his eighteenth Conference: "We
must never think that by going to Holy Communion for others, or by praying
for them, we lose anything. We need not fear that by offering to God this
communion or prayer in satisfaction for the sins of others we shall not
make spiritual profit for ourselves. The merit of the communion and of the
prayer will remain with us, for we cannot merit grace for one another; it
is our Lord alone who can do that. We can beg for graces for others, but we
can never merit them."


Good will being of so great importance, you ask me of what use it is, if it
does not manifest itself by its works.

And St. Gregory tells us that where there are no works there can be no love
at all, or at least none that is sincere. Our Blessed Father will give the
best possible answer to your question. These are his words:

"The angel who proclaimed the birth of our infant Saviour sang glory to
God, announcing that he published joy, peace, and happiness to men of good
will. This was done in order that no one might be ignorant that to receive
this Child all that is needed is to be of good will, even though as yet
one may have effected nothing of good, for Christ comes to bless all good
wills, and, little by little, He will render them fruitful and of good
effect, provided we allow Him to govern them.

"With regard to good desires, it is, indeed, marvellous that they should so
often come to nothing, and that such magnificent blossoms should produce so
little fruit.

"He gives, however, a reason for this, which pleases me very much.

"God knows, he says, why He permits so many good desires to require such
length of time and such severe effort to bring them to action, nay, more
than this, why sometimes they are never actuated at all.

"Yet if there were no other profit from them than that resulting from the
mortification of a soul which loves God, that would be much.

"In fact, we must not desire evil things at all; good things we must desire
only in moderation; but desire supremely, and in a limitless degree, that
one only divine Good, God Himself."


A certain person of my acquaintance[1] having learnt on good authority that
Blessed Francis had in his early youth made a vow to say his rosary every
day, wished to imitate him in this work of piety, and yet did not like to
make the vow without first consulting him.

He received the answer: "Beware of doing so." My friend replying: "Why do
you refuse to others the advice which you took for yourself in your youth?"
Blessed Francis continued: "The very word _youth_ decides the question,
because I made the vow at that time with less reflection, but now that I am
older I say to you, Do not do it. I do not tell you not to say your rosary;
on the contrary, I advise you as earnestly as I can, and even conjure you
not to allow a single day to pass without reciting that prayer, which is
most pleasing to God, and to the Blessed Virgin. But do it from a firm and
fixed purpose, rather than from a vow, so that if you should happen to omit
it either from weariness or forgetfulness, or any other circumstance, you
may not be perplexed by scruples, and run the risk of offending God. For it
is not enough to vow, we must also pay our vow, and that under pain of
sin, which is no small matter. I assure you that this vow has often been a
hindrance to me, and many a time I have been on the point of asking to be
dispensed, and set free from it, or at least of having it changed into some
other work of equal worth, which might interfere less with the discharge of
my duties."

"But," rejoined this person, "is not what is done by vow more meritorious
than what is done only from a firm and settled purpose?" "I suspected that
was it," replied Blessed Francis; "in that case who do you wish should
profit by what you do?" "A fine question," cried the other, "my neighbour,
do you think? No, certainly, I want to gain it for myself." "Then there
is nothing more to be said," replied Blessed Francis. "I see I have been
making a mistake, I imagined, of course, that you wished to make your vow
to God, for God, and for His sake, and so by your vow to merit or gain
something for God. What! Are we to talk of our merits and graces as if He
needed them, and were not Himself absolute merit and infinite goodness and

Our Blessed Father loved to see this bird beating its wings against the
bars of its cage. At last to let him fly, he said: 'But what then is merit,
but a work pleasing to God, and a work done in His grace, and by His help,
and for His love--a work which He rewards with increase of grace and
glory?' "Certainly," said the other, "that is how I, too, understood it."
"Well, then," replied he, "if you understand it thus, why do you contend
against your understanding and your conscience? Are we not meriting for
God, when we do a good work in a state of grace and for the love of God?
And ought not the love of God which seeks nothing but His interests,
that is to say, His glory, to be the chief end and final aim of all our
good works, rather than the reward we thereby merit, which is merely an

"And of what use to God are the merits and good works of men?" continued
the other. "For one thing," replied he, "God thereby saves you from taking
a false step. You are standing on the brink of a precipice, and you have
your eyes shut. Let me give you a helping hand."

"In very truth, no good works of ours, though done in a state of grace and
for the love of God, can increase His interior and essential glory. The
reason is that this glory, being God Himself and consequently infinite,
can neither be increased by our good actions nor diminished by our sins;
and it is in this sense that David says that God is God and has no need of
our goods.[2] It is not thus, however, with the exterior glory which is
rendered to Him by creatures, and for the obtaining of which He drew them
forth out of nothingness into existence. This is finite, by reason of its
subject, God's creature, and therefore can be increased by our good works
done in and for the love of God, or, on the other hand, diminished by our
evil actions, by which we dishonour God, and rob Him of His glory, though
only of glory which is exterior and outside of the divine nature.

"Now that we do increase the exterior glory of God by our good works, done
as I have said, is evident from the testimony of the Apostle, when he calls
the man who is purified from sin by justifying grace: _A vessel unto honour
sanctified and profitable to the Lord prepared unto every good work._[3]

"Indeed, it is the very fact that a work done in grace increases the
exterior glory of God, which makes it meritorious, His goodness being
pledged by His promise to glorify those who glorify Him, and to give the
crown of justice to those who fight the good fight, and who do, or endure,
anything for the glory of His name. This is why I said that we must merit
for God, that is to say, we should refer our actions to the glory of God,
and act out of love for Him. So we shall merit eternal life, provided
always we be free from mortal sin, since God is not pledged to give the
glories of heaven to any but those who shall labour in His grace.

"If, on the other hand, we wish to merit for ourselves, that is to say,
if we positively intend that the whole aim of our labour be the reward of
grace, or glory, which we hope for: and if we do not, in performing our
good works seek first and chiefly the glory of God; then we really merit
nothing for ourselves, since we do nothing for God. The reason of this is
that there is so close a relationship between merit and reward (the two
Latin names for them, _meritum_ and _merces_, having the same root and
meaning), that one cannot exist without the other any more than a mountain
without a valley, or paternity without sonship.

"You see now that in the theory you have unwittingly adopted you entirely
destroy the nature of true merit, and are in danger of being shipwrecked
on the same rock as those heretics of our day who hold that good works are
unprofitable for salvation. I am convinced, as you may well believe, that
you are as far from wishing to run the risk with them as you are from
sharing their belief.

"Remember this, that in order to do a good work in true charity you must
not make your own interest your ultimate aim, but God's interest, which is
nothing else but His exterior glory. The more, too, that you think of God's
interest the more He will think of yours, and the less you trouble yourself
about reward, the greater will your reward be in heaven, because pure love,
never mercenary, looks only to the good of the beloved one, not to its own.
This is the end and aim of the sacred teaching that we must seek first the
_Kingdom of God_, that is to say, His glory, knowing assuredly that in
seeking this all good things will be added unto us.

"He who only wishes to merit for himself does nothing for God and merits
nothing for himself: but, on the other hand, he who does everything for God
and for His honour merits much for himself.

"In this game he who loses, wins; and he who thinks only of winning for
himself, plays a losing game. His good works are, as it were, hollow, and
weigh too lightly in the divine balance. He falls asleep on his pile; of
imaginary spiritual wealth, and awakening finds he has nothing in his
hands. He has laboured for himself, not for God, and therefore receives
his reward from himself and not from God. Like a moth, he singes his wings
in the flame of a merit which is truly imaginary, no work being really
meritorious except that which is done in a state of grace, and with God for
its last end."

"All this," replied the person, "does not at all satisfy me on the point
which I brought forward, namely, as to whether work done by vow is not more
meritorious than that which is done without it, seeing that to the action
of the particular virtue which is vowed is added that of the virtue of
religion which is the vow."

"Certainly," replied our Blessed Father, "as regards the question whether
it is more meritorious to say the Rosary by vow rather than of one's free
choice, it is undoubtedly, as you say, adding one act of virtue to another
to do so in discharge of one's vow, for is not prayer the highest of all
religious actions? Again, if I pray with devotion and fervour, am I not
adding to prayer another religious action, which is devotion? If I offer to
God this prayer, as incense, or a spiritual sacrifice, or as an oblation,
are not sacrifice and oblation two religious actions? Moreover, if by this
prayer I desire to praise God, is not divine praise a religious act? If in
praying I adore God, is not adoration one also?

"And if I pray thus with devotion, adoration, sacrifice, oblation, and
praise, have we not here five acts of the virtue of religion added by me to
the sixth, which is prayer?"

"But," rejoined the other, "the vow is more than all that." "If," replied
Blessed Francis, "you say that the act of making a vow is in itself more
than all these six together, you must really bring me some proof of its
being so."

"I mean," said the other, "than each of these acts taken separately,"
"That," returned our Blessed Father, "is not the opinion of the Angelical
Doctor,[4] who, when enumerating the eleven acts of religion, places the
making a vow only in the eighth rank, with seven preceding it, namely,
prayer, devotion, adoration, sacrifice, oblation, the paying of tithes, and
first-fruits; and three after it: the praise of God, the taking of lawful
oaths, and the adjuring of creatures in God.

"It is not that the act of making a vow is not an excellent thing; but we
have no right to set it above other virtues which surpass it in excellence,
and other good works of greater worth. We must leave everything in its
place, going neither against the order of reason nor against that of divine
charity. A man who boasts too much of his noble birth provokes scrutiny
into the genuineness of his claim and risks its being disallowed."

"All the same," persisted this person, "I maintain that a good work done by
vow is more meritorious than one done without it, charity, of course, being
taken for granted." "It is not enough," replied Francis, "to take charity
for granted. We must also suppose it to be greater in the man who does the
action with a vow than in the one who does it without; for if he who says
some particular prayer, because bound by vow, has less charity than he who
says the same without being so bound, he, doubtless, has, and you will not
deny it, less merit than the other, because merit is not in proportion to
the vow made, but to the charity which accompanies it, and without which it
has neither life nor value."

"And supposing equal charity, vow, or no vow," resumed the person, "will
not the action done by vow have greater merit than the other?" "It will
only have the same eternal glory for its reward," replied our Blessed
Father, "in so far as it has the same amount of charity, and thus each will
receive the same reward of eternal life.

"But as regards accidental glory, supposing that there were a special halo
for the vow which would add a fourth to the three of which schoolmen treat,
or, if you wish, that there should be as many special and accidental halos
of glory as there are kinds of virtue, they will be unequal in accidental

"But then we should have to prove that this multiplicity of halos, or
accidental glories, exists, in addition to the three of which the schoolmen
speak. This I would ask you now to do, though I am doubtful as to the

"Of what then does it avail you," said the other, "to have made that vow
about which I have been consulting you?"

"It renders me," replied our Blessed Father, "more careful, diligent, and
attentive in keeping my word to God, in binding myself closer to Him,
in strengthening me to keep my promise (for I do not deny that there is
something more stable in the vow than in mere purpose and resolution), in
keeping myself from the sin I might incur, if I should fail in what I have
vowed, in stimulating me to do better, and to make use of this means to
further my progress in the love of God," "You do not then pretend to merit
more on account of it?" said the other. "I leave all that to God," replied
Francis, "He knows the measure of grace which He gives, or wishes to give
me. I desire no more, and only as much as it may please Him to bestow on me
for His glory. Love is not eager to serve its own interests, it leaves the
care of them to its Beloved, who will know how to reward those who love Him
with a pure and disinterested love."

I close this subject with two extracts from the writings of our Blessed
Father. In the first he says: "I do not like to hear people say, We must do
_this_, or _that_, because there is more merit in it. There is more merit
in saying, 'We must do all for the glory of God.' If we could serve God
without merit--which cannot be done--we ought to wish to do so. It is to be
feared that by always trying to discover what is most meritorious we may
miss our way, like hounds, which when the scent is crossed, easily lose it

[Footnote 1: Undoubtedly M. Camus himself. Note.--It is considered by
critics that M. Camus puts much of his own into the month of St. Francis
in this section.--[Ed.]]
[Footnote 2: Psal. xv. 2.]
[Footnote 3: 2 Tim. ii. 21.]
[Footnote 4: S. Thom. 2a, 2ae, Quaest, xxiii. art. vii.]


I have been asked whether our Lord Jesus Christ had passions. I cannot do
better than answer in the exact words of our Blessed Father, taken from his
Theotimus. He says:

"Jesus Christ feared, desired, grieved, and rejoiced. He even wept, grew
pale, trembled, and sweated blood, although in Him these effects were not
caused by passions like to ours. Therefore the great St. Jerome, and,
following his example, the Schools of Theology, out of reverence for
the divine Person in whom they existed, do not dare to give the name of
passions to them, but call them reverently pro-passions, to show that in
our Lord these sensible emotions, though not passions, took the place
of passions. Moreover, He suffered nothing whatever on account of them,
excepting what seemed good to Him, governing and controlling them at His
will. This, we who are sinners do not do, for we suffer and groan under
these disorderly emotions, which, against our will, and to the great
prejudice of our spiritual peace and welfare, disturb our souls."[1]

[Footnote 1: Book I. chap. 3.]


Blessed Francis candidly owned that the two passions which it cost him the
most to conquer were "love of creatures and anger." The former overcame by
skill, the latter by violence, or as he himself was wont to say, "by taking
hold of his heart with both hands."

The strategy by which he conquered love of creatures was this. He gave his
affections an altogether new object to feed upon and to live for, an object
absolutely pure and holy, the Creator. The soul, we know, cannot live
without love, therefore all depends on providing it with an object worthy
of its love. Our will is like our love. "We become earthly," says St.
Augustine, "if we love the earth, but heavenly if we love heaven. Nay
more, if we love God, we actually, by participation, become godlike. Osee,
speaking of idolaters, says: _They became abominable as those things were
which they loved_".[1] All our Saint's writings breathe love, but a love
so holy, pure, and beautiful as to justify itself in every expression of
it:--_Pure words ... justified in themselves ... sweeter than honey and the

As regards the passion of anger, which was very strong in him, he fought
against it, face to face, with such persevering force and success that
meekness and gentleness are considered his chief characteristics.

[Footnote 1: Osee ix. 10.]


One day, at a time when I was writing a treatise on the subject of
the human passions--which treatise was afterwards published among my
Miscellaneous Works--I went to him to be enlightened upon several points.

After having answered my questions, and satisfied my mind, he asked me:
"And what will you say about the affections?" I must confess that this
question surprised me, for though I am quite aware of the distinction
between the reasonable and the sensitive appetite, I had no idea that there
was such a difference between the passions and the affections, as he told
me existed. I imagined that when the passions were governed by reason, they
were called affections, but he explained to me that this was not so at
all. He said that our sensitive appetite was divided into two parts: the
concupiscent and the irascible....

The reasonable appetite is also divided, like the sensitive, into the
concupiscent and the irascible, but it makes use of the mind as its

The sensitive concupiscent appetite is again subdivided into six passions:
1, love; 2, hate; 3, desire; 4, aversion; 5, joy; 6, sadness. The irascible
comprises five passions: 1, anger; 2, hope; 3, despair; 4, fear; 5,

The reasonable appetite, which is the will, has just as many affections,
and they bear the same names. There is, however, this difference between
the passions and the affections. We possess the passions in common with
the irrational brute creation, which, as we see, is moved by love,
hate, desire, aversion, joy, sadness, anger, hope, despair, fear, and
fearlessness, but without the faculty of reason to guide and regulate the
impulse of the senses.

The carnal man, that is to say, he who allows himself to be carried away
by the impetuosity of his feelings, is, says the Psalmist: _compared to
senseless beasts and is become like to them_.[1]

He, however who makes use of his reason, directs his affections uprightly
and well, employing them in the service of the reasonable appetite, only in
as far as they are guided by the light and teaching of natural reason. As
this, however, is faulty and liable to deceptions and illusions, mistakes
are often made which are called by philosophers disorders of mind.

But when the regenerate, that is to say, the Christian who possesses both
grace and charity, makes use of the passions of his sensitive appetite,
as well as of the affections of his reason, for the glory of God, and for
the love of Him alone, this does not happen. Then he loves what he ought
to love, he hates what he ought to hate, he desires what God wills that
he should desire, he flies from what displeases God, he is saddened by
offences done against God, he rejoices and takes delight in the things
which are pleasing to God. Then his zeal fills him with anger and
indignation against all that detracts from the honour due to God; he hopes
in God and not in the creature, he fears nothing save to offend God, he is
fearless in God's service. Thus, the Psalmist, a man after God's own heart,
was able to say that his flesh, that is, the passions seated in his senses,
and his heart, namely, the affections rooted in his mind, _rejoiced in the
living God_.[2]

The winds, which, as some of the ancients held, come forth from the caverns
and hollows of the earth, produce two very different effects upon the sea.
Without winds we cannot sail, and yet through them tempests and shipwrecks
happen. The passions and affections shut up in the two caverns of the
concupiscent and the irascible appetite are so many inward impulses which
urge us on to evil if they are rebellious, disorderly, and irregular, but
if directed by reason and charity, lead us into the haven of rest, the port
of life eternal.

This is what our Blessed Father taught me, and if you desire any more
information on the subject you will find it in his _Treatise on the Love
of God_.[3] His words did indeed open my eyes! They were of the greatest
assistance to me in writing the book I alluded to.

[Footnote 1: Psal. xlviii. 13.]
[Footnote 2: Psal. lxxxiii. 3.]
[Footnote 3: Book 1. chap. 5.]


There is something remarkable about the origin of this book, _An
Introduction to the Devout Life_, addressed by him to Philothea, that
is, to every soul which desires to love and serve God, and especially
to persons living in the world. One peculiarity about it is that it was
composed two years before its author had thought of writing any book at
all. He says on this subject in his preface:

"It was by no choice or desire of mine that this _Introduction_ saw the
light. Some time ago, a soul[1] richly endowed with honourable and virtuous
qualities, having received from God the grace to aspire to the devout life,
desired my special assistance in the matter. I, on my part, having had
much to do with her in spiritual concerns, and having for a long time past
observed in her a great aptitude for such a life, took great pains in
instructing her. I not only led her through all the exercises suitable to
her condition and aspirations, but I also gave her some written notes,
to which she might refer when necessary. Later on she showed these to a
learned and devout Religious man, who, considering that they might be of
use to many, strongly urged me to publish them, which he easily persuaded
me to do, because his friendship had great power over me, and because I
valued his judgment very highly."

I am able to give some further details. This soul richly endowed with
honourable and virtuous qualities, as our Blessed Father described her to
be, was a lady from Normandy of good family, who had married a gentleman of
note in Savoy. His estates were partly in the diocese of Geneva, where he
mostly resided, and he was nearly related to our Blessed Father. The lady,
who was of a most pious disposition, decided that she could not possibly
choose a better guide in the devout life than our Saint, her Bishop, and
her relative by marriage.

Blessed Francis instructed her carefully both by word of mouth and also by
written lessons, which she not only kept and treasured up, but sorted and
arranged according to their various subjects, so as to be able to find in a
moment the counsel she wanted.

For two years she went on steadily collecting and amassing these precious
documents as one by one he wrote them for her. At the end of that time,
owing to the disturbed state of the country, a great change came over her
life. Her husband served his Prince, the Duke of Savoy, in the war in
Piedmont, and was obliged to leave the management of all his affairs and
of his property to his wife, who was as skilful in such matters as she was

The business of a great lawsuit in which her husband was concerned obliged
her to take up her residence for more than six months at Chambery, where
the senate or parliament was held.

During her stay in this place she took for her director Pere Jean Ferrier,
the Rector of the Jesuit College, and confessor to our Blessed Father. In
her difficulties she applied to this Father for advice, and he willingly
gave it.

Sometimes it agreed with what Blessed Francis had said to her on similar
occasions, sometimes it differed. When it differed, in order to prove that
she was not speaking at random, and that she had something stronger than
her own memory to rely upon, she would show him some of the written
memoranda of which I have spoken.

The good Priest, who was deeply versed in all spiritual matters, found so
much in them that was profitable and delightful, that on one occasion he
asked her if she had many more of the same sort.

"So many, Father," she replied, "that if they were arranged in proper order
they would make a good-sized volume."

The Father at once expressed his wish to see them all, and after having
slowly and thoughtfully perused them, begged as a further favour that he
might have several copies made of them.

This being readily granted, he distributed the said copies among the
Fathers of the College, who fully appreciated the gift, and treasured it
most carefully.

When this lady returned to Geneva, the Father Rector wrote a letter by her
to our Blessed Father, praising her many virtues and her business talents,
and begging him to continue to guide and counsel a soul so rich in all
Christian graces and heavenly dispositions. He then went on to extol in the
highest terms the written teaching with which he (Francis) had assisted
her. Our Blessed Father read Pere Ferrier's first letter, he has told me,
without giving a thought to the matter of his own writings. But when this
was followed by letter upon letter urging and imploring him not to keep
such a treasure buried, but to allow other souls to be enlightened and
guided in the way of salvation by his teaching, our Blessed Father was
puzzled. He wrote to Pere Ferrier saying that his present charge was so
onerous, and engrossing, that he had no leisure for writing, and moreover
that he had no talent for it, and could not imagine why people wanted him
to attempt to do so. Pere Ferrier replied, saying that if his Lordship
did not publish the excellent instructions which he had given in writing
to this lady he would be keeping back truth unlawfully, depriving souls
of great advantages, and God of great glory. Our Blessed Father, much
surprised, showed the letter to the lady, begging her to explain it. She
replied that Pere Ferrier had made the same request to her, entreating her
to have the memoranda, given her for her private direction, published.

"What memoranda?" said Blessed Francis. "Oh! Father," replied the lady, "do
you not remember all those little written notes on various subjects which
you gave me to help my memory?" "And pray what could be done with those
notes?" he enquired. "Possibly you might make a sort of Almanack out of
them, a sentence for every day in the year." "An Almanack!" cried the lady.
"Why, Father, do you know that there are enough of them to fill a big book!
Little by little the pile has grown larger than you would think! Many
feathers make a pound, and many strokes of the pen make a book. You had
better see the papers, and judge for yourself. The Father Rector has had
them copied, and they make a thick volume." "What!" cried Blessed Francis,
"has the good Father really had the patience to read through all these poor
little compositions, put together for the use of an unenlightened woman!
You have done us both a great honour, indeed, by giving the learned doctor
such a trifle to amuse himself with, and by showing him these precious
productions of mine!" "Yet he values them so much," replied the lady, "that
he persists in assuring me that he has never come across any writings more
useful, or more edifying; and he goes on to say that this is the general
feeling of all the Fathers of his house, who are all eager to possess
copies. If you refuse to take the matter in hand, they will themselves see
that this light is not left much longer under a bushel." "Really," said our
Blessed Father, "it is amazing that people should want me to believe that
I have written a book without meaning it. However, let us examine these
precious pearls of which so much is thought."

The lady then brought to him all the bundles of notes which she had shown
to Pere Ferrier. Our Blessed Father was astonished to see how many there
were, and wondered at the care which the lady had taken to collect and
preserve them. He asked to be allowed to look them through again, and
begged Pere Ferrier not to attempt to send to the press disconnected and
detached fragments which he had never for a moment thought of publishing.
He added, however, that if on examination he thought that what had been
written for the consolation of one soul might prove useful to others, he
would not fail to put them into good order, and to add what was necessary
to make them acceptable to those who might take the trouble to read them.

This he did, and the result was the _Introduction_,[2] which we are
therefore justified in saying was composed two years before its author
thought of writing it!

The simplicity, beauty, and usefulness of this book is well known. It
showed the possibility of living a holy life in any station, amid the
tumult of worldly cares, the seductions of prosperity, or the temptations
of poverty. It brought new light to devout souls, and encouragement to all,
whether high or low, who were desirous of finding and following Jesus.

But, alas! there is a reverse side to the picture. I mean the
misrepresentations and calumnies which our Blessed Father had to endure
from those who pretended that the principles on which the book was
based were absurd, and that it inculcated a degree of devotion quite
impracticable in ordinary life.

I can hardly speak calmly about this matter, and so content myself with
remarking that in spite of bitter opposition the book has already, in my
own time, passed through thirty editions in French, and has been translated
not only into Latin, but into Italian, Spanish, German, English, in short,
into most European languages.

In order that you may not think, however, that I have exaggerated in what I
have said of the opposition which it excited, I will close the subject with
our Blessed Father's own calm and gentle words of lament. In his preface to
the _Treatise on the Love of God_, he says:

"Three or four years afterwards I published the _Introduction to a Devout
Life_ upon the occasion, and in the manner which I have put down in the
preface thereof: regarding which I have nothing to say to you, dear reader,
save only that, though this little book has in general had a gracious and
kind acceptance, yes, even amongst the gravest Prelates and Doctors of the
Church, yet it has not escaped the rude censure of some who have not merely
blamed me but bitterly and publicly attacked me, because I tell Philothea
that dancing is an action indifferent in itself, and that for recreation's
sake one may make puns and jokes. Knowing the quality of these censors, I
praise their intention, which I think was good. I should have desired them,
however, to please to consider that the first proposition is drawn from
the common and true doctrine of the most holy and learned divines; that
I was writing for such as live in the world, and at court; that withal I
carefully point out the extreme dangers which are found in dancing; and
that as to the second proposition, it is not mine but St. Louis', that
admirable King, a Doctor worthy to be followed in the art of rightly
conducting courtiers to a devout life. For, I believe, if they had weighed
this, their charity and discretion would never have permitted their zeal,
how vigorous, and austere soever, to arm their indignation against me."

[Footnote 1: Madame de Charmoisy, nee Louise Dutchatel. [Ed.]]
[Footnote 2: The Saint added advice given by him to his mother and
others. [Ed.]]


God said to Moses: _Look, and make it_ (the tabernacle) _according to the
pattern that was shewn thee in the mount_,[1] and he did so. The ancient
philosopher was right when he described the art of imitating as the
mistress of all others, because it is by making copies that we learn how to
draw originals, "The way of precept is long," said the Stoics, "but example
makes it short and efficacious." Seneca, treating of the best method of
studying philosophy, says that it is to nourish and clothe ourselves with
the maxims of eminently philosophical minds.

Blessed Francis always inculcated this practice of imitating others in
virtue. Hence his choice of spiritual books to be read and followed. With
respect to the Lives of the Saints, he advised the reading by preference of
those of holy men and women whose vocation has either been identical with
or very much like our own, in order that we may put before ourselves models
we can copy more closely.

On one occasion, however, when I was telling him how I had taken him for my
pattern, and how closely I watched his conduct and ways, trying thereon to
model my own, and that he must be careful not to do anything less perfect,
for if he did, I should certainly imitate it as a most exalted virtue, he
said: "It is unfortunate that friendship, like love, should have its eyes
bandaged and hinder us from distinguishing between the defects and the good
qualities of the person to whom we are attached. What a pity it is that you
should force me to live among you as if I were in an enemy's country, and
that I have to be as suspicious of your eyes and ears as if you were spies!

"Still I am glad that you have spoken to me as you have done, for a man
warned is a man armed, and I seem to hear a voice saying: 'Child of earth,
be on thy guard, and always walk circumspectly, since God and men are
watching thee!' Our enemies are constantly on the alert to find fault and
injure us by talking against us; our friends ought to observe us just as
narrowly but for a very different reason, in order, namely, that they may
be able to warn us of our failings, and kindly to help us to get rid of

"_The just man_, says the Psalmist, _shall correct me in mercy, and shall
reprove me, but let not the oil of the sinner fatten my head_. By the oil
of the sinner is meant flattery. Do not be offended with me if I assure you
that you are still more cruel to me, for you not only refuse to give me a
helping hand to aid me in getting rid of my faults, which you might do by
wholesome and charitable warnings, but you seem by your unfair copying of
my faults to wish, to make me an accomplice in your own wrong doings!

"As for me, the affection God has given me for you is very different. My
jealousy for God's honour makes me long so ardently to see you walk in His
ways that your slightest failing is intolerable to me, and so far am I from
wishing to imitate your faults, that, if I seem to overlook them for a
time, I am, believe me, doing violence to myself, by waiting with patience
for a fitting opportunity to warn you of them."

[Footnote 1: Exod. xxv. 40.]


Blessed Francis considered--as indeed I have already told you in another
place--that to love to listen to God, speaking to us, either by the living
voice of His Priests, or in pious books, which are often the voice of His
Saints, was one of the strongest marks of predestination.

But he also insisted on the folly and uselessness of listening to, or
reading, without putting in practice the lessons so conveyed to us. This,
he said, was like beholding our faces in a glass, then going our way, and
forgetting what we are like. It is to learn the will of our Master and not
to take pains to fulfil His commands.

In his Philothea he says:

"Be devoted to the word of God, whether it comes to you in familiar
conversation with your spiritual friends, or in listening to sermons.
Always hear it with attention and reverence, profit by it as much as
possible, and never permit it to fall to the ground. Receive it into your
heart as a precious balm, following the example of the Blessed Virgin, who
kept carefully in her heart every word that was spoken in praise of her
divine Child. Do not forget that our Lord gathers up the words which we
speak to Him in our prayers, in proportion to the diligence with which we
gather up those He addresses to us by the mouth of His preachers."

As regards spiritual reading, he recommended it most strongly as being food
for the soul, which we could always keep at hand, at all times and in all
places. He said that we might be where we could not always hear sermons, or
easily have recourse to a spiritual director and guide, and that our memory
might not always serve us to recall what we had been taught, either by
preachers, or by those who had instructed us specially and individually
in the way of salvation. He therefore desired those who aspired to lead a
devout life to provide themselves with pious books which would kindle in
their hearts the flame of divine love, and not to let a single day pass
without using them. He wished them to be read with great respect and
devotion, saying that we should regard them as missives "sent to us by the
Saints from heaven, to show us the way thither, and to give us courage to
persevere in it."


It is well known that if our Blessed Father had lived to return from Lyons,
his intention was to retire from the world and its activities in which he
had so long taken a part, and to lead henceforth a purely contemplative

With this intention he had, some years before his death, caused a little
hermitage to be built in a most suitable and sequestered spot on the shores
of the beautiful lake of Annecy. This, however, he had had done quite
quietly without giving any idea of the real purpose for which it was

On this same shore there is a Benedictine Monastery called Taloire,
easily accessible, as it is built on the slope of the Hill. Into it he
had introduced some salutary reforms, and he was on terms of the most
affectionate intimacy with the holy men who lived a hidden life in its
quiet seclusion.

At the top of a neighbouring spur of this same mountain, on a gentle and
smooth rising ground, surrounded by rich vineyards and delightful shrubs of
various kinds, watered by clear streams, stood an old chapel, dedicated to
God, under the name of St. Germain, a Saint who had been one of the first
monks in the Monastery and who is greatly honoured in that part of the
country. Blessed Francis secretly gave the necessary funds for repairing
and decorating this chapel, and for building round it five or six cells
pleasantly enclosed. This hermitage, the Superior said, would be most
useful to his monks, enabling them to make their spiritual retreats in
quiet solitude. Indeed, from time to time he sent them there for this
purpose, in accordance with the rule of St. Benedict, which so greatly
recommends solitude, a rule practised to the letter in the hermitages of
Montserrat in Spain.

Here, then, in this quiet and lonely retreat, it was the intention of
Blessed Francis to spend the last years of his life, and when he spoke upon
the subject in private to the good Prior, he expressed himself in these
words: "When I get to our hermitage I will serve God with my breviary, my
rosary, and my pen. Then I shall have plenty of happy and holy leisure,
which I can spend in putting on paper, for the glory of God and the
instruction of souls, thoughts which have been surging through my mind for
the last thirty years and which have been useful to me in my sermons, in my
instructions, and in my own private meditations. My memory is crowded with
these, but I hope, besides, that God will inspire me with others, and that
ideas will fall upon me from heaven thick and fast as the snowflakes which
in winter whiten all our mountains. Oh! who will give me the wings of a
dove, that I may fly to this holy resting place, and draw breath for a
little while beneath the shadow of the Cross? _I expect until my change

[Footnote 1: Job xiv. 14.]


Blessed Francis, gentle and indulgent to others as regards recreation, was
severe towards himself in this matter. He never had a garden in either of
the two houses which he occupied during the time of his episcopate, and
only took walks when the presence of guests made them necessary, or when
his physician prescribed them for his health, for he obeyed him faithfully.

But he acted otherwise with his friends and neighbours. He approved of
agreeable conversation after meals, never showing weariness, or making them
feel ill at ease. When I went to visit him, he took pains to amuse me after
the fatigue of preaching, either by a row on the beautiful lake of Annecy,
or by delightful walks in the fine gardens on its banks. He did not refuse
similar recreations which I offered him when he came to see me, but he
never asked for or sought them for himself. Although he found no fault
with those who talked enthusiastically of architecture, pictures, music,
gardening, botany, and the like, and who devoted themselves to these
studies or amusements, he desired that they should use them as mystical
ladders by means of which the soul may rise to God, and by his own example
he showed how this might be done.

If any one pointed out to him rich orchards filled with well-grown fruit
trees: "We," he would say, "are the agriculture and husbandry of God." If
buildings of just proportion and symmetry: "We," he would say, "are the
edifice of God." If some magnificent and beautifully decorated church: "We
are the living temples of the living God. Why are not our souls as richly
adorned with virtues?" If flowers: "Ah! when will our flowers give fruits,
and, indeed, be themselves fruits of honour and integrity?"

When there was any talk of budding and grafting, he would say: "When shall
we be rightly grafted? When shall we yield fruits both plentiful and well
flavoured to the heavenly Husbandman, who cultivates us with so much care
and toil?" When rare and exquisite pictures were shown to him: "There is
nothing," he would say, "so beautiful as the soul which is made to the
image and likeness of God."

When he was taken into a garden, he would exclaim: "Ah! when will the
garden of our soul be planted with flowers and plants, well cultivated,
all in perfect order, sealed and shut away from all that can displease the
heavenly Gardener, who appeared under that form to Magdalen!" At the sight
of fountains: "When will fountains of living water spring up in our hearts
to life eternal? How long shall we continue to dig for ourselves miserable
cisterns, turning our backs upon the pure source of the water of life? Ah!
when shall we draw freely from the Saviour's fountains! When shall we bless
God for the rivers of Israel!"

And so on with mountains, lakes, and rivers. He saw God in all things and
all things in God.


One day we went together into the cell of a certain Carthusian monk, a man
whose rare beauty of mind, and extraordinary piety, drew many to visit him,
and in later days have taken his candlestick from under its bushel and set
it up on high as one of the lights of the French Church.

He had written in capital letters round the walls of his cell these two
beautiful lines of an old Latin poet:

  _Tu mihi curarum requies, tu nocte vel atra
  Lumen, et in solis tu mihi turba locis._[1]

    Thou art my rest in grief and care,
      My light in blackest gloom;
    In solitude which thou dost share,
      For crowds there is no room.

Our Blessed Father read and re-read these lines several times, thinking
them so beautiful that he wished to engrave them on his memory, believing
that they had been written by some Christian poet, perhaps Prudentius.
Finding, however, that they were composedly a pagan, and on a profane
subject, he said it was indeed a pity that so brilliant a burst of light
should only have flashed out from the gross darkness of heathenism.
"However," he continued, "this good Father has made the vessels of the
Egyptians into a tabernacle, lining it with the steel mirrors which had
lent themselves to feminine vanity. Thus it is that to the pure all
things are pure. This, indeed, is quite a different thing from the way of
acting of those who make light of the holy words of Scripture, using them
carelessly and even jestingly in idle conversation, a practice intolerable
among Christians who profess to reverence these oracles of salvation."

We then began to analyse these beautiful lines, taking them in the sense in
which the holy monk had taken them when he wrote them on his walls, namely,
as addressed to God. Our Blessed Father said that God alone was the repose
of those who had quitted the world and its cares to listen to His voice
speaking to their hearts in solitude, and that without this attentive
hearkening, solitude would be a long martyrdom, and a source of anxiety in
place of a centre of tranquillity.

At the same time he said that those who were burdened with Martha's busy
anxieties would not fail to enjoy in the very midst of their hearts the
deep peace of Mary's better part, provided they carried all their cares to

We saw afterwards another inscription containing these words of the

  _This is my rest for ever and ever:
  Here will I dwell for I have chosen it._[2]

"It is in God," said our Blessed Father, "rather than in a cell, that we
should choose our abode, never to change it. Oh! happy and blessed are they
who dwell in that house, which is not only the house of the Lord, but the
Lord Himself. Happy, indeed, for they shall praise Him for ever and ever."

Then we came upon another inscription, bearing these words: _One thing I
have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may see the delight
of the Lord and visit His Temple._[3]

"This true dwelling of the Lord," said he, "is His holy will; which is
signified by the word delight; i.e., pleasure. Since in God there is no
pleasure that is not good, what difference can there be between the _good
pleasure_ and the _will_ of God? The will of God never tends but towards

We then went back to the second part of the Latin distich: _Tu nocte vel
atra, lumen: my light in blackest gloom._

"Yes, truly," he said, "Jesus born in Bethlehem brought a glorious day-dawn
into the midst of night; and by His Incarnation did He not come to
enlighten those who were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death? He
is, indeed, our Light and our Salvation; when we walk through the valley of
the shadow of death we need fear nothing if He is at our side. He is the
Light of the world; He dwells in light inaccessible, light that no darkness
can overtake. He alone can lighten our darkness."

Upon the last clause of the beautiful verse:

  _Et in solis tu mihi turba locis.
  In solitude which thou dost share, For crowds there is no room._

he said: "Yes, communion with God in solitude is worth a thousandfold
the pleasantest converse with the gay crowds who throng the doors of the
wealthy; for the rich man can only maintain his splendour by dint of much
toil, and is worn out by his cares and by the importunity of others.
Miserable, indeed, are riches acquired at so great cost, retained with so
much trouble, and yet lost with such painful regret."

This was one of his favourite sayings: "We must find our pleasure in
ourselves when we are alone, and in our neighbour as in ourselves when we
are in his company. Yet, wherever we may be, we must primarily find our
pleasure in God alone, who is the maker of both solitude and society. He
who does otherwise will find all places wearisome and unsatisfying; for
solitude without God is death, and the society of men without God is more
harmful than desirable. Wherever we may be, if God is there, all is well:
where He is not, nothing is well: without Him we can do nothing that has
any worth."

[Footnote 1: Tibul iv., Eleg xiii. ii. 12.]
[Footnote 2: Psal. cxxxi. 14.]
[Footnote 3: Psal. xxvi. 4.]


Perhaps there is nothing of which men are more apt to complain than of
their own condition in life. This temptation to discontent and unhappiness
is a favourite device of the enemy of souls. The holy Bishop used to say:
"Away with such thoughts! Do not sow wishes in other people's gardens; do
not desire to be what you are not, but rather try most earnestly to be the
best of what you are. Try with all your might to perfect yourself in the
state in which God has placed you, and bear manfully whatever crosses,
heavy or light, may be laid upon your shoulders. Believe me, this is the
fundamental principle of the spiritual life; and yet, of all principles
it is the least well understood. Every one follows the bent of his own
taste and desires; very few find their sole happiness in doing their duty
according to the pleasure of our Lord. What is the use of building castles
in Spain, when we have to live in France!

"This, as you remember, is old teaching of mine, and by this time you ought
to have mastered it thoroughly."


There is one kind of self-sufficiency which is blameworthy and another
which is laudable. The former is a form of pride and vanity, and those whom
it dominates are termed conceited. Holy Scripture says of them that they
trust in themselves. This vanity is so absurd that it seems more deserving
of contempt and ridicule than of grave blame.

But to turn to good and rational contentedness. Of it the ancient stoic
said that what is sufficient is always at our command, and that what we
labour for is superfluous; and again, that if we live according to the laws
of nature we shall never be poor, but if we want to live according to our
fancies we shall never be rich.

To be contented with what really suffices, and to persuade ourselves that
what is more than this Is either evil or leading to evil, is the true means
of leading a tranquil, and therefore a happy, life.

This is not only my own opinion, but it is also that of our Blessed Father,
who congratulates a pious soul on being contented with the sufficiency she
had. "God be praised for your contentment with the sufficiency which He has
given you. Persevere in thanking Him for it. It is, indeed, the beatitude
of this poor earthly life to be contented with what is sufficient, because
those who are not contented when they have enough will never be contented,
how much soever they may acquire. In the words of your book--since you call
it your book--Nothing will ever content those who are not contented when
they have enough."


If the poor, by reason of their poverty, are members of Jesus Christ, the
sick are also such by reason of their sickness. Our Saviour Himself has
told us so: _I was sick, and you visited Me_.[1] For if the great Apostle
St. Paul said that with the weak he was weak,[2] how much more the divine
Exemplar, whom he but copied?

Our Blessed Father expressed as follows his feelings of respect and honour
towards a sick person to whom he was writing. "While I think of you sick
and suffering in your bed, I regard you with special reverence, and as
worthy of being singularly honoured as a creature visited by God, clothed
in His apparel, His favoured spouse. When our Lord was on the Cross He was
proclaimed King even by His enemies, and souls who are bearing the cross
(of suffering) are declared to be queens. Do you know why the angels envy
us? Assuredly, because we can suffer for our Lord, whilst they have never
suffered anything for His sake. St. Paul, who had been raised to heaven and
had tasted the joys of Paradise, considered himself happy only because of
his infirmities, and of his bearing the Cross of our Lord."

Farther on he entreats her, as a person signed with the Cross, and a sharer
in the sufferings of Jesus Christ, to commend to God, though in an agony
of pain, an affair of much importance which concerned the glory of God. He
held that in a condition such as hers was, prayer would be more readily
heard, just as our Saviour, praying fervently on the Cross, was heard for
His reverence. The Psalmist was of the same opinion, saying that God heard
him willingly when he cried to Him in the midst of his tribulation, and
that it was in his afflictions that God was nearest to him.

Our Blessed Father believed that prayers offered by those who are in
suffering, though they be short, are more efficacious than any others. He
says: "I entreat you to be so kind as to recommend to God a good work which
I greatly desire to see accomplished, and especially to pray about it when
you are suffering most acutely: for then it is that your prayers, however
short, if they are heartfelt, will be infinitely well received. Ask God at
that time also for the virtues which you need the most."

[Footnote 1: Matt. xxv. 36.]
[Footnote 2: Cor. xi. 29.]


One day we went together to visit a very aged lady in her last illness. Her
piety, which was of no ordinary kind, made her look forward calmly to the
approach of death, for which she had prepared by the reception of the
Sacraments of Penance and of the Blessed Eucharist. She only awaited the
visit of her doctor before asking for that of Extreme Unction.

All her worldly affairs were in perfect order, and but one thing troubled
her, namely, that her children who had all assembled round her, on hearing
of her danger, were too indefatigable in their attendance upon her, and
this, as she thought, to the detriment of their own health. Our Blessed
Father wishing to comfort her, said tenderly: "Do you know that I, on the
contrary, when I am ill, am never so happy as when I see my relatives and
servants all busy about me, tiring themselves out on my behalf. You are
astonished, and ask me why I feel like this. Well, it is because I know
that God will repay them generously for all these services. For if a cup of
cold water given to a poor man in the love and for the love of God receives
such a reward as eternal life; if our least labours undertaken for the love
of God work in us the weight of a supreme glory, why should we pity those
whom we see thus occupied, since we are not ill-disposed towards them, nor
envious of their advantages? _For unto you it is given_, said St. Paul to
the christians of his day, _not only to believe in Christ, but also to
suffer for Him_.

"The reapers and vintagers are never happier than when they are heavily
laden, because that proves the harvest, or the vintage, to have been
plentiful. In truth, if those who wait on us, whether in health or in
sickness, are only considering us, and not God, and are only seeking to
please us, they make so bad a use of their toil that it is right they
should suffer for it. He who serves the prophet for the love of the prophet
shall receive the reward of the prophet. But, if they serve us for the
love of God they are more to be envied than pitied; for he who serves the
prophet in consideration of Him who sends him shall receive the reward of
God, a reward which passes all imagination, which is beyond price, and
which no words can express."

In his visiting of the sick when on their death-bed our Blessed Father was
truly an angel of peace and consolation. He treated the sick person with
the utmost sweetness and gentleness, speaking from time to time a few words
suited to his condition and frame of mind, sometimes uttering very short
ejaculatory prayers, or aspirations for him, sometimes leading the sufferer
to utter them himself, either audibly, or, if speech was painful to him,
secretly in his heart; and then allowing him to struggle undisturbed with
the mortal pains which were assailing him.

He could not bear to see the dying tormented with long exhortations. That
was not the time, he would say, for preaching, or even for long prayers;
all that was needed was to keep the soul sustained in the atmosphere of the
divine will, which was to be its eternal element in heaven, to keep it up,
I say, by short beatings of the wings, like birds, who in this way save
themselves from falling to the earth.


When any of his friends or relatives died he never tired of speaking well
of them nor of recommending their souls to the prayers of others. He used
to say: "We do not remember our dead, our dear ones who have left us,
nearly enough; and the proof that we do not remember them enough is that we
speak of them too seldom. We turn away conversation from that subject as
though it were a painful one; we let the dead bury their dead, their memory
die out in us with the sound of the funeral knell, seeming to forget that
a friendship which can end even with death can never have been a true one.
Holy Scripture itself tells us that true charity, that is, divine and
supernatural love, is stronger than death! It seems to me that as a burning
coal not only remains alive but burns more intensely when buried under
ashes, so sincere and pure love ought to be made stronger by death, and to
impel us to more fervent prayers for our deceased friends and relatives
than to supplications for those who are yet living.

"For thus we look upon the dead more absolutely as in God, since, having
died in Him, as we piously believe, they rest upon the bosom of His mercy.
Then, praise can no longer be suspected of flattery, and, as it is a kind
of impiety to tear to pieces the reputation of the dead, like wild beasts
digging up a corpse to devour it; so it is a mark of piety to rehearse and
extol the good qualities of the departed, since our doing so incites us to
imitate them: nothing affecting us so deeply and so strongly as the example
of those with whom we come in close and frequent contact."

In order to encourage people to pray for the dead he used to represent
to them that in this one single work of mercy all the other thirteen are
included, explaining his statement in the following manner. "Are we not,"
he would say, "in some sort visiting the sick when we obtain by our prayers
relief or refreshment for the poor Souls in purgatory?

"Are we not giving drink to the thirsty and feeding the hungry when we
bestow the cool, refreshing dew of our prayers upon those who, plunged in
the midst of its burning flames, are all athirst and hungering for the
vision of God? When we help on their deliverance by the means which Faith
suggests, are we not most truly ransoming prisoners? Are we not clothing
the naked when we procure for souls a garment of light, the light of glory?

"Is it not an act of the most princely hospitality to obtain for them an
entrance into the heavenly Jerusalem, and to make them fellow-citizens with
the saints and servants of God in the eternal Zion?

"Then, as regards the spiritual works of mercy. Is it not the most splendid
thing imaginable to counsel the doubtful, to convert the sinner, to
forgive injuries, to bear wrongs patiently? And yet, what is the greatest
consolation we can give to the afflicted in this life compared to the
solace our prayers bring to the poor souls who are in such grievous


Strictly speaking, the sojourn which we make on earth, in the days of our
flesh and which we call life, is rather death than life, since "every
moment leads us from the cradle to the grave."

This made an ancient philosopher say that we are dying every day of our
lives, that every day some portion of our being falls away, and that what
we call life is truly death.[1]

Hence the beautiful saying of the wise woman of Thecua: _We all die, and
like waters that return no more, we fall down into the earth._[2]

Nature has imprinted in the hearts of all men a horror of death. Our
Saviour, even, taking upon Himself our flesh and making Himself like to His
brethren, sin only excepted, would not be exempted from this infirmity,
although He knew that the passage into another world would set Him free
from all miseries and transport Him into a glory which He already possessed
as regarded His soul. Seneca says that death ought not to be considered an
evil when it has been preceded by a good life.

What makes death so formidable is that which follows upon it. We have,
however, the shield of a most blessed hope to protect us against the
terrors that arise from fear of the divine judgments. This hope makes us
put our trust, not in our own virtue, but solely in the mercy of God, and
assures us that those who trust in His goodness are never confounded.

But, you say, I have committed many faults. True, but who is so foolish as
to think that he can commit more sins than God can pardon? Who would dare
to compare the greatness of his guilt with the immensity of that infinite
mercy which drowns his sins in the depths of the sea of oblivion each time
we repent of them for love of Him? It belongs only to those who despair
like Cain to say that their sin is so great that there is no pardon for
them,[3] for _with God there is mercy and plentiful redemption, and He
shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities_.[4]

Listen to the words of holy consolation which were addressed by our Blessed
Father to a soul encompassed and assaulted by the terrors of death and of
the judgment to follow. They are to be found in one of his letters. "Yes,"
he says, "death is hideous indeed, that is most true, but the life which is
beyond, and which the mercy of God will give to us, is much to be desired.
There must be no mistrust in your mind, for, miserable though we may be,
we are not half so miserable as God is merciful to those who desire to
love Him, and have fixed their hope in Him. When St. Charles Borromeo was
at the point of death he had the crucifix brought to him, that by the
contemplation of his Saviour's death he might soften the bitterness of
his last agony. The best remedy of all against an unreasonable dread is
meditation upon the death of Him who is our life; we should never think of
our own death without going on to reflect upon that of Christ."

[Footnote 1: Senec. Epist. 24.]
[Footnote 2: Kings xiv. 14.]
[Footnote 3: Gen. iv. 13.]
[Footnote 4: Psal. cxxix. 7-8.]


You ask me if we are permitted to wish for death rather than offend God any
more? I will tell you a thought which I believe was suggested to me by our
Blessed Father, but I cannot distinctly remember on what occasion.

"It is always dangerous to wish for death, because this desire, generally
speaking, is only to be met with in those who have arrived at a very high
pitch of perfection, which we dare not think we have reached, or else in
persons of a morose and melancholy temperament, and but seldom in those of
ordinary disposition like ourselves."

It is alleged that David, St. Paul, and other saints expressed their
longing to be delivered from the burden of this body so that they might
appear before God and be satisfied with the vision of His glory. But we
must remember that it would be presumptuous to speak the language of
Saints, not having their sanctity, and to imagine that we had it would
be inexcusable vanity. To entertain such a wish because of sadness,
disappointment, or dejection is akin to despair.

But, you say, it is that you may no longer offend God. This, no doubt,
shows great hatred of sin, but the Saints longed for death, more that
they might glorify God. Whatever we may pretend, I believe it to be very
difficult to have only this one end in view, in our desire to die. Usually
it will be found that we are simply discontented with life. To get to
heaven we must not only not sin, but we must do good. If we refrain from
sin we shall escape punishment, but more is required to deserve heaven.


There are some who imagine that St. Paul desired to die in order only that
he might sin no more when he said that he felt in himself a contradiction
between the law of his senses and of his reason; and, feeling this, cried
out: _Oh! unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this
death?_[1] These people, therefore, as though they were so many little
Apostles, when they are, by some trifle, goaded to impatience, instantly
say that they desire to die, and pretend that their only wish is to be in
a condition in which they cannot possibly offend God. This is, indeed, to
cover up mere impatience and irritation with a fine cloak! But what is
still worse, it is to wrench and distort the words of the Apostle and apply
them in a sense of which he never thought. Our Blessed Father, in one of
his letters, gives an explanation of this passage which is so clear and so
excellent that I am sure if will be useful to you. He speaks thus: "_Oh,
unhappy man that I am_, said the great Apostle, _who shall deliver me from
the body of this death?_ He felt within himself, as it were, an armed host
of ill humours, antipathies, bad habits, and natural inclinations which
conspired to bring about his spiritual death; and because he fears them he
declares that he hates them, and because he hates them he cannot support
them without pain, and his grief makes him burst out into the exclamation
which he himself answers in these words: _The grace of God by Jesus
Christ_. This will deliver him not from the death of the body with its
terrors, not from the last combat, but from defeat in the struggle, and
will preserve him from being overcome.

"You see how far the Apostle is from invoking death, although elsewhere
he desires to be set free from the prison of the body that he may be with
Jesus Christ. He calls the mass of temptations which urge and incite him
to sin a body of death, sin being the true death of the soul. Grace is the
death of this death and the devourer of this abortion of hell, for where
sin abounded grace superabounds.

"Grace, which has been merited for us by Jesus Christ our Saviour, to whom
be honour and glory for ever and ever."

[Footnote 1: Rom. vii. 24.]


Here is a little village story to show how often true and solid piety is to
be found among the lowly and ignorant, of whom the world thinks not at all.
I had it from the lips of our Blessed Father, who loved to tell it.

While visiting his diocese, passing through a little country town, he was
told that a well-to-do inhabitant was very ill and desired to see him, and
to receive his blessing before he died. Our Blessed Father hastened to his
bedside and found him at the point of death, yet in full possession of all
his faculties. When he saw the Bishop the good farmer exclaimed: "Oh! my
Lord, I thank God for permitting me to receive your blessing before I die."

Then the room being cleared of all his relations and friends, and he being
left quite alone with the holy Prelate, he made his confession and received
absolution. His next question was, "My Lord, shall I die?" The Bishop,
unwilling to alarm him unnecessarily, answered quietly and reassuringly
that he had seen people far more ill than he recover, but that he must
place all his trust in God, the Master of life and death, who knows the
number of our days, which cannot be even one more than he has decreed.

"But, my Lord," returned the man, "do you really yourself think that I
shall die?" "My son," replied the good Prelate, "a physician could answer
that question better than I can. All I can tell you is that I know your
soul to be just now in a very excellent state of preparation for death, and
that perhaps were you summoned at any other time, you might not be so fit
to go. The best thing you can do is to put aside all desire of living and
all care about the matter, and to abandon yourself wholly to the providence
and mercy of God, that He may do with you according to His good pleasure,
which will be undoubtedly that very thing which is best for you."

"Oh, my Lord," cried the sick man, "it is not because I fear to die that
I ask you this, but rather because I fear I shall not die, for I can't
reconcile myself to the idea of recovering from this sickness."

Francis was greatly surprised at hearing him speak in this manner, for
he knew that a longing to die is generally either a grace given to very
perfect souls such as David, Elias, St. Paul, and the like; or, on the
contrary, in sinners a prelude to despair, or an outcome of melancholy.

He therefore asked the man if he would really be sorry to live, and, if so,
why such disgust for life, the love of which is natural in all men.

"My Lord," answered the good man, "this world appears to me to be of so
small account that I cannot think why so many people care for nothing
beyond what it has to give. If God had not commanded us to remain here
below until He calls us by death I should have quitted it long ago."

The Bishop, imagining that the man had something on his mind, or that
the bodily pain he was enduring was too much for him, asked him what his
trouble was--perhaps something about money?

"Not at all," replied he, "I have up to the present time, and I am seventy,
enjoyed excellent health, and have abundant means. Indeed, I do not, thank
God, know what poverty is."

Francis questioned him as to his wife and children, asking him if any one
of them was an anxiety to him. "They are each one a comfort and a delight
to me," he answered, "Indeed, if I had any regret in quitting this world it
would be that I shall have to part from them."

More and more surprised, and unable to understand the man's distaste for
life, the Bishop said: "Then, my brother, why do you so long for death?"

"My Lord," replied he, "it is because I have heard in sermons so much about
the joys of Paradise that this world seems to me a mere prison." Then,
speaking out of the fullness of his heart, and giving vent to his thoughts,
he uttered marvellous words concerning the Vision of God in Heaven, and the
love kindled by it in the souls of the blessed.

He entered into so many details respecting the rapturous joys of Eternity
that the good Bishop shed tears of delight, feeling that the good man
had been taught by God in these things, and that flesh and blood had not
revealed them to him, but the Holy Spirit.

After this, descending from those high and heavenly speculations, the poor
farmer depicted the grandeur, the wealth, and the choicest pleasures of the
world in their true colours, showing their intrinsic vileness, and how in
reality they are vanity and vexation of spirit, so as to inspire Blessed
Francis himself with increased contempt for them. The Saint, nevertheless,
did no more than silently acquiesce in the good man's feelings, and to calm
the excitement under which he saw that he was labouring, desired him to
make acts of resignation, and indifference as to living or dying. He told
him to follow the example set by St. Paul, and by St. Martin, and to make
his own the words of the Psalmist: _For what have I in heaven? And besides
Thee what do I desire upon earth?_[1]

A few hours later, having received Extreme Unction from the hands of the
holy Bishop, the man quietly, and apparently without suffering, passed from
this world. So likewise may we when our last hour comes fall gently asleep.
_Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord!_

Another story told me by our Blessed Father relates to himself and a man
with whom he came in contact.

When he was at Paris in the year 1619, this gentleman, who was not only
rich in this world's goods but also in piety and charity, came to consult
him on matters of conscience, and began thus: "Father, I am much afraid
that I shall not save my soul, and therefore I have come to you to beg you
to put me in the right way."

The Bishop asked him what was the cause of this fear. He answered: "My
being too rich. You know Scripture makes the salvation of the rich a matter
of such difficulty that, in my case, I fear it is an impossibility."

Francis, thinking that perhaps he had made his money dishonestly, and that
on that account his conscience was now pricking him, questioned him as to

"Not at all," he answered, "My parents, who were excellent people, left
me no ill-gotten goods, and what I have added to my inheritance has been
amassed by my own frugality and honest work, God preserve me from the sin
of appropriating what belongs to my neighbour! No, my conscience does not
reproach me in that respect."

"Well, then," said the Bishop, "have you made a bad use of this wealth?"

"I live," he replied, "in such a manner as becomes my rank and position,
but I am afraid that I do not give enough to the poor, and you know that we
shall be one day judged on this point."

"Have you any children?" asked Francis.

"Yes," he replied; "but they are all well provided for, and can easily do
without me."

"Really," said the Bishop, "I do not see whence your scruples can arise;
you are the first man I have ever met who has complained to me of having
too much money; most people never have enough."

It was easy to set this good soul at rest, so docile was he in following
the Bishop's advice. The latter told me afterwards that he found upon
enquiry that the man had formerly held high appointments, discharging his
duties in them most faithfully, but had retired from all in order to devote
himself to works of piety and mercy. Moreover, he passed all his time in
churches or hospitals, or in the houses of the uncomplaining poor, upon
whom he spent more than half his income. By his will, after his many pious
legacies were paid, it was found that our Lord Himself was his real heir,
for he gave to the town hospital a sum of money equal to that which was
divided among his children. I may add that a life so holy and devoted was
crowned by a most happy death. Truly, _Blessed are the merciful, for they
shall obtain mercy!_

[Footnote 1: Psal. lxxii. 25.]


On one occasion Blessed Francis was asked what it was to die in God; what
was the meaning of those words: _Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,
that they may rest from their labours, for their works follow them._[1]

He replied that to die in God was to die in the grace of God, because God
and His grace are as inseparable as the sun and its rays. He was asked
again, if to die in God meant to die while in habitual grace, or to die in
the exercise of charity, that is to say, whilst impelled by actual grace.
He answered that in order to be saved it was enough to die in habitual or
sanctifying grace, that is to say, in habitual charity; seeing that those
who die in this state, as for instance newly-baptized infants, though they
may never have performed a single act of charity, obtain Paradise by right
of inheritance, habitual charity making them children of God by adoption.
Those, however, who die, not only in the holy and supernatural state of
habitual charity, but whilst actually engaged in works of charity, come
into the possession of heaven by a double title, that of inheritance and
that of reward; therefore is it written that _their works follow them_.
The crown of justice is promised by the just Judge to those who shall have
fought a good fight and finished their course with perseverance, even to
the end.

Going on to explain what is meant by man's dying in actual grace, he
said that it was to die while making acts of lively faith and hope, of
contrition, resignation, and conformity to the will of God. He added these
words, which have always remained deeply impressed on my mind: "Although
God is all-powerful, it is impossible for Him to condemn to eternal
perdition a soul whose will, at the moment of its leaving the body, is
subject to, and united with, His own."

[Footnote 1: Apoc. xiv. 13.]


Judging from outward appearances, from the vigour of his frame, from his
sound constitution, and from the temperate simplicity of his manner of
life, it seemed probable that Blessed Francis would live to an advanced

One day I said as much to him, he being at that time about forty-two or
forty-three years old. "Ah!" he replied with a sigh, "the longest life is
not always the best. The best is that which has been best spent in the
service of God," adding these words of David: _Woe is me that my sojourning
is prolonged; I have dwelt with the inhabitants of Cedar, my soul hath
been long a sojourner._[1] I thought he was secretly grieving over his
banishment from his See, his beloved Geneva (he always called it thus),
wrapped in the darkness of error, and I quoted to him the words: _Upon the
rivers of Babylon there we sat, and wept._[2]

"Oh! no," he answered, "it is not that exile which troubles me. I am only
too well off in our city of refuge, this dear Annecy. I meant the exile of
this life on earth. As long as we are here below are we not exiled from
God? _While we are in the body we are absent from the Lord._[3] _Unhappy
man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace
of God by Jesus Christ._"[4]

I ventured in reply to remind him how much he had to make his life happy:
how his friends esteemed him, how even the very enemies of religion
honoured him, how all who came in contact with him delighted in his

"All that," he answered, "is beneath contempt. Those who had sung Hosanna
to the Son of God three days later cried out _Crucifige_. Such things
do not make my life any dearer to me. If I were told that I should live
as long again as I have already done, and that without pain, without
law-suits, without trouble, or inconveniences of any kind, but with all
the content and prosperity men desire in life, I should be sadly disturbed
in mind! Of what small account are not the things of time to him who is
looking forward to a blessed Eternity! I have always praised the words of
the Blessed Ignatius de Loyola, 'Oh! how vile and mean earth appears to me
when I meditate upon and look up to heaven.'"

[Footnote 1: Psalm cxix.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm cxxxvi. 1.]
[Footnote 3: Cor. v. 6.]
[Footnote 4: Rom. vii. 24-35.]


Concerning Purgatory, St. Francis used to say that in the controversy
with Protestants there was no point on which the Church could support her
doctrine by so many proofs, drawn both from the Scriptures and from the
Fathers and Councils, as on this. He blamed those who oppose the doctrine
for their lack of piety towards the dead. On the other hand, he reproved
those Catholic preachers who, when speaking of Purgatory and of the pains
and torments suffered there by the holy souls, do not at the same time
enlarge upon their perfect love of God, and consequent entire satisfaction
in the accomplishment of His will, with which their own will is so
indissolubly united, that they cannot possibly feel the slightest movement
of impatience or irritation. Nor can they desire to be anywhere but where
they are, were it even till the consummation of all things, if such should
be God's good pleasure.

On this subject he recommended the careful study of the _Treatise on
Purgatory_, written by blessed Catherine of Genoa. By his advice I read the
book with attention, and have often re-read it, always with fresh relish
and profit. I have even invited Protestants to read if, and they have been
quite satisfied by it. One young convert admitted that had he seen this
Treatise before his conversion it would have helped him more than all the
discussions into which the subject had led him.

St. Francis was of opinion that the thought of Purgatory ought rather to
comfort than to terrify. "The majority of those," he used to say, "who
dread Purgatory do so in view of their own interests, and out of self-love,
rather than for God's interests. The cause of this is that those who preach
on the subject are in the habit of depicting only the pains of that prison,
and say not a word on the joy and peace which the souls therein detained
enjoy. It is true that the torments of Purgatory are so great that the most
acute sufferings of this life cannot be compared with them; but, then, on
the other hand, the inward satisfaction of the sufferers is such that no
amount of earthly prosperity or contentment can equal it. 1 deg.. The souls who
are waiting there enjoy a continual union with God. 2 deg.. Their wills are in
perfect subjection to His will; or, to speak more correctly, their wills
are so absolutely transformed into the will of God that they cannot will
anything but what He wills. 3 deg.. If Paradise were open to them, they would
rather cast themselves down into hell than appear before God stained and
denied as they see themselves still to be. 4 deg.. They accept their Purgatory
lovingly and willingly, because it is the good pleasure of God. 5 deg.. They
wish to be there, in the manner in which it pleases God that they should
be, and for as long as He wills. 6 deg.. They cannot sin. 7 deg.. They cannot feel
the slightest movement of impatience. 8 deg.. Nor be guilty of the smallest
imperfection. 9 deg.. They love God more than themselves and more than any
other creature, and with a perfect, pure, and disinterested love, 10 deg.. They
are in Purgatory consoled by the angels. 11 deg.. They are secure of their
salvation. 12 deg.. They are in a state of hope, which cannot but be realized.
13 deg.. Their grief is holy and calm. 14 deg.. In short, if Purgatory is a species
of hell as regards suffering, it is a species of Paradise as regards
charity. The charity which quickens those holy souls is stronger than
death, more powerful than hell; its lamps are all of fire and flame.
Neither servile fear nor mercenary hope has any part in their pure
affection. Purgatory is a happy state, more to be desired than dreaded,
for all its flames are flames of love and sweetness. Yet still it is to
be dreaded, since it delays the end of all perfection, which consists in
seeing God, and therefore fully loving Him, and by this sight and by this
love praising and glorifying Him through all eternity."


He compared penance to an almond tree, not only in allusion to the word
_amendment_ and the expression, amend your ways, both of which in the
French language resemble in sound the word _almond_, but by a very
ingenious comparison.

"The almond tree," he said, "has its blossom of five petals, which as
regards number bear some resemblance to the five fingers of the hand, its
leaves are in the shape of a tongue, and its fruit of a heart. Thus the
Sacrament of Penance has three parts which make up its whole. The first
which concerns the heart is _contrition_, of which David says that God
heals those who are contrite of heart,[1] and that He does not despise the
humble and contrite heart.[2]

"The second, which concerns the tongue, is _confession_. The third,
which regards the hand, that is to say, the doing of good works, is
_satisfaction_. Moreover," he went on to say, "as there are almonds of two
kinds, the one sweet, the other bitter, which being mixed make a pleasant
flavour, agreeable to the palate, so also in penance there is a certain
blending of sweetness and bitterness, of consolation and pain, of love and
regret, resembling in taste the pomegranate, which has a certain sharp
sweetness and a certain sweet sharpness far more agreeable than either
sharpness or sweetness separately. Penance which had only the sweetness
of consolation would not be a cleansing hyssop, powerful to purge away
the stains of iniquity. Nor, if it had only the bitterness of regret and
sorrow, without the sweetness of love, could it ever lead us to that
justification which is only perfected by a loving displeasure at having
offended the Eternal, Supreme, and Sovereign Goodness."

Our Blessed Father treats of this mingling of love and sorrow proper to
true penitence with so much grace and gravity in his Theotimus that I think
nothing grander or sweeter could be written on the subject. Here is an
extract. "Amidst the tribulation and remorse of a lively repentance God
often kindles at the bottom of our heart the sacred fire of His love; this
love is converted into the water of tears, then by a second change into
another and greater fire of love. Thus the penitent Magdalen, the great
lover, first loved her Saviour; her love was converted into tears, and
these tears into an excellent love; whence our Saviour told her that many
sins were pardoned her because _she had loved much_. The beginning of
perfect love not only follows upon penitence, but clings to it and knits
itself to it; in one word, this beginning of love mingles itself with the
end of penitence, and in this moment of mingling penitence and contrition
merit life everlasting."[3]

[Footnote 1: Psalm cxlvi. 3.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm l. 19.]
[Footnote 3: _Love of God_, Book II, c. 20.]


Our Blessed Father had a wonderful aptitude for distinguishing between what
was real and genuine and what was false in the shame manifested by his
penitents. He used to say that when this confusion was full of trouble and
agitation it proceeded from self-love, from vexation and shame at having
to own our sins and imperfections, not from the spirit of God. This he
expresses in his second Conference in these words:

"We must never suffer our confusion to be attended with sadness and
disquietude; that kind of confusion proceeds from self-love, because we
are troubled at not being perfect, not so; much for the love of God as for
love of ourselves." An extract from Theotimus will close this subject most

"Remorse which positively excludes the love of God is infernal, it is like
that of the lost. Repentance which does not regret the love of God, even
though as yet it is without it, is good and desirable, but imperfect: it
can never save us until it attains to love, and is mingled with it. So
that, as the great Apostle said, even if he gave his body to be burned, and
all his goods to the poor, and had not charity it would all be of no avail;
we, too, may say with truth, that, however great our penitence may be, even
though it make our eyes overflow with tears of sorrow, and our hearts to
break with remorse, still if we have not the holy love of God it will serve
us nothing as regards eternal life."[1]

[Footnote 1: Book ii. c. 19.]


It is a great mistake when souls, in other respects good and pious, imagine
that it is impossible to preserve inward peace amid bustle and turmoil.
There are some even, strange to say, who though dedicated to God by
their holy calling, complain if they are employed by their community in
laborious and troublesome offices, calling them distracting functions and
occupations. Assuredly, these good people know not what they say, any more
than did St. Peter on Mount Thabor.

What do they mean by distracting occupations? Possibly those which separate
us from God? I know nothing which can separate us from His love except
sin, which is that labour in brick and clay in which the infernal Pharaoh,
tyrant of souls, and king over the children of pride, employs his unhappy
subjects. These are the strange gods who give no rest either by night or by
day. But with that exception, I know of no legitimate occupation which can
either separate us from God, or, still more, which cannot serve as a means
to unite us to Him. This may be said of all callings, of those of soldiers,
lawyers, merchants, artisans.

Our Blessed Father devotes two chapters in his Theotimus to this subject,
but he speaks even more explicitly upon it in one of his letters, in
which he says: "Let us all belong wholly to God, even amid the tumult and
disturbance stirred up round about us by the diversity of human affairs.
When can we give better proof of our fidelity than amid contrarieties,
Alas! my dearest daughter, my sister, solitude has its assaults, the world
has its disorder and uproar; yet in either we must be of good heart, since
everywhere heaven is close to those who have confidence in God, and who
with humility and gentleness implore His fatherly assistance. Beware of
letting your carefulness degenerate into trouble and anxiety."

"Tossed about upon the waves and amid the winds of many a tumult, always
look up to heaven, and say to our Lord: 'O God, it is for Thee that I set
my sails and plough the seas; be Thou my guide and my pilot!' And then
console yourself by remembering that when we are in port the joys which
will be ours will blot out all remembrance of our toils and struggles to
reach it. We are now voyaging thither in the midst of all these storms, and
shall safely reach our harbour if only we have an upright heart, a good
intention, firm courage, eyes fixed on God, and place all our confidence
in Him. If the violence of the tempest makes our head dizzy, and we feel
shaken and sick, do not let us be surprised, but, as quickly as we can, let
us take breath again, and encourage ourselves to do better. I feel quite
sure that you are not forgetful of your good resolutions as you pursue your
way; do not then distress yourself about these little attacks of anxiety,
and vexation, caused by the multiplicity of domestic affairs. Nay, my dear
daughter, all this tumult gives you opportunities of practising the dearest
and most lovable of the virtues recommended to you by our Lord. Believe me,
true virtue is not nourished in external calm any more than are good fish
found in the stagnant waters of the marshes."


Our Blessed Father used to say that the most cowardly of all temptations
was discouragement. When the enemy of our salvation makes us lose hope
of ever advancing in virtue he has gained a great advantage over us, and
may very soon succeed in thrusting us down into the abyss of vice. Those
who fly into a passion at the sight of their own imperfections are like
people who want to strike and bruise their own faces, because they are not
handsome enough to please their self-love. They only hurt themselves the

The holy Bishop wishing to correct this fault in one of his penitents said
to her: "Have patience with every one, but especially with yourself. I
mean, do not be over-troubled about your imperfections, but always have
courage enough at once to rise up again when you fall into any of them. I
am very glad to hear that you begin afresh every day. There is no better
means for persevering in the spiritual life than continually to be
beginning again, and never to think that one has done enough."

On these words we may make the following reflections:

1. How shall we patiently suffer the faults of our neighbour if we are
impatient over our own?

2. How shall we reprove others in a spirit of gentleness if we correct
ourselves with irritation, with disgust, and with unreasonable sharpness?
What can come out of a bag but what is in it?

3. Those who fret impatiently over their own imperfections will never
correct themselves of them, for correction, if it is to be of use, must
proceed from a tranquil, restful mind. _Cowardice_, says David, _is the
companion of trouble and tempest_.

4. He who has lost courage has lost everything, he who has thrown up the
game can never win, nor can the soldier who has thrown away his arms return
to the fight, however much he may want to do.

5. David said: _I waited for him that saved me from pusillanimity and a
storm_. He who believes himself to be far advanced in the ways of God has
not yet even made a good beginning.

6. St. Paul, who had been raised to the third heaven, who had fought so
many good fights, run so many splendid races, and had kept the Faith
inviolate, in spite of all, never thought that he had finished his work,
or reached the goal, but always pressed forward as though he had but just

7. This mortal life is but a road leading to heaven. It is a road to which
we must steadily keep. He who stops short in it runs the risk of not
reaching safely the presence of God in which it ends. He who says, I have
enough, thereby shows that he has not enough; for in spiritual things
sufficiency implies the desire for more.

[Footnote 1: 2 Cor. xii. 2, 4.]


Our Blessed Father was a great enemy to hurry and over-eagerness, even in
rising up again after a fall.

He used to say that if our act of contrition is more hurried than humble we
are very likely to fall again soon, and that this second fall will be worse
than the first.

As he considered our penitence incomplete without an act of the love of
God, so also he maintained recovery from a fall to be imperfect if not
accompanied by tranquillity and peace. He wished us to correct ourselves,
as well as others, in a spirit of sweetness. Here is the advice which he
gives on the subject.

"When we happen to fall from some sudden outburst of self-love, or of
passion, let us as soon as possible prostrate ourselves in spirit before
God, saying, with confidence and humility: Have mercy on me, for I am weak.
Let us rise again with peace and tranquillity and knot up again our network
of holy indifference, then go on with our work. When we discover that
our lute is out of tune, we must neither break the strings nor throw the
instrument aside; but listen attentively to find out what is the cause of
the discord, and then gently tighten or slacken the strings, according to
what is required."

To those who replied to him that we ought to judge ourselves with severity,
he said: "It is true that with regard to ourselves we ought to have the
heart of a judge, but as the judge who hastily, or under the influence of
passion, pronounces sentence, runs the risk of committing an injustice,
but not so when reason is master of his actions and behaviour, we must, in
order to judge ourselves with equity, do so with a gentle, peaceful mind,
not in a fit of anger, nor when so troubled as hardly to know what we are


Since the measure and the model of the love which God commands us to bear
towards our neighbour ought to be the just and Christian love which we
should bear towards ourselves, and as charity, which is patient and kind,
obliges us to correct our neighbours' faults with gentleness and sweetness,
our Blessed Father did not consider it right that we should correct
ourselves in a manner different from this, nor be harsh and severe with
ourselves because of our falls and ill-doings. In one of his letters he
wrote as follows: "When we have committed a fault, let us at once examine
our heart and ask it whether it does not still preserve living and entire
the resolution to serve God. It will, I hope, answer yes, and that it would
rather die a thousand deaths than give up this resolution. Let us go on to
ask it further. Why, then, are you stumbling now? Why are you so cowardly?
It will reply: I was taken by surprise: I know not how; but I am tolerably
firm now. Ah! my dear daughter, we must pardon it; it was not from
infidelity, but from infirmity that it failed. We must then correct
ourselves gently and quietly, and not irritate and disturb ourselves still
more. Rise up, my heart, my friend, we should say to ourselves, and lift up
our thoughts to our Help, and our God.

"Yes, my dear daughter, we must be charitable to our own soul, and not
rebuke it over harshly when we see that the fault it has committed was not
fully wilful."

Moreover, he would not have us accuse ourselves over-vehemently and
exaggerate our faults. At the same time, he had no desire that in regard to
ourselves we should err on the side of leniency. He wanted us to embrace
the happy medium, by humiliating without discouraging ourselves, and by
encouraging ourselves with humility. In another letter he says: "Be just,
neither accuse nor excuse your poor soul, except after much consideration,
for fear lest if you excuse yourself when you should not, you become
careless, and if you accuse yourself without cause, you discourage yourself
and become cowardly. Walk simply and you will walk securely."


"Some people have so high an opinion of their own perfection that should
they discover any failings or imperfections in themselves they are thrown
into despair. They are like people so anxious about their health that the
slightest illness alarms them, and who take so many precautions to preserve
this precious health that in the end they ruin it."

Our Blessed Father wished us to profit, not only by our tribulations, but
also by our imperfections, and that these latter should serve to establish
and settle us in a courageous humility, and make us hope, even against
hope, and in spite of the most discouraging appearances. "In this way," he
said, "we draw our healing and help from the very hand of our adversaries."
To a person who was troubled at her imperfections, he wrote thus: "We
should, indeed, like to be without imperfections, but, my dearest daughter,
we must submit patiently to the trial of having a human, rather than an
angelic, nature. Our imperfections ought not, indeed, to please us; on the
contrary, we should say with the holy Apostle: _Unhappy man, that I am, who
shall deliver me from the body of this death!_[1] But, at the same time,
they ought not to astonish us, nor to discourage us: we should draw from
them submission, humility, and mistrust of ourselves; never discouragement
and loss of heart, far less distrust of God's love for us; for though He
loves not our imperfections and venial sins, He loves us, in spite of them.

"The weakness and backwardness of a child displeases its mother, but she
does not for that reason love it less. On the contrary, she loves it more
fondly, because she compassionates it. So, too, is it with God, who cannot,
as I have said, love our imperfections and venial sins, but never ceases to
love us, so that David with reason cries out to Him: _Have mercy on me, O
Lord, for I am weak._"[2]

[Footnote 1: Rom. vii. 24.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm vi. 3.]


A good man meditating upon this passage, and taking it too literally, fell
into a perfect agony, saying to himself: "Alas! how many times a day, then,
must not I, who am _not_ just, fall?" Yet during his evening examination of
conscience, however closely and carefully he searched, and however much
he was on the watch during the day to observe his failings and faults, he
sometimes could not make up the number. Greatly troubled and perplexed
about this, he carried his difficulties to our Blessed Father, who settled
them in this way:

"In the passage which you have quoted," he said, "we are not told that the
just man sees or feels himself fall seven times a day, but only that he
does fall seven times, and that he raises himself up again without paying
any heed to his so doing. Do not then distress yourself; humbly and frankly
confess what you have observed of faulty in yourself, and what you do not
see, leave to the sweet mercy of Him who puts out His hand to prevent those
who fall without malice, from being jarred or bruised against the hard
ground; and who raises them up again so quickly and gently that they never
notice it nor are conscious of having so much as fallen."

The great imperfection of most of us proceeds from want of reflection, but,
on the other hand, there are many who think overmuch, who fall into the
mistake of too close self-inspection, and who are perpetually fretting over
their failings and weaknesses.

Blessed Francis writes again on the subject: "It is quite certain that as
long as we are imprisoned in this heavy and corruptible body there will
always be something wanting in us. I do not know whether I have already
told you that we must have patience with every one; and, first of all, with
ourselves. For since we have learnt to distinguish between the old Adam
and the new, between the outward man and the inward, we are really more
troublesome to ourselves than any of our neighbours."


Of the three ways leading to perfection the first is called the purgative,
and consists in the purifying of the soul; from which, as from a piece
of waste ground, we must take away the brambles and thorns of sin before
planting there trees which shall bear good fruit. This purgation has,
however, two different stages; that which precedes the justification of the
soul, and that which follows it. This latter may again be subdivided into
two parts. There is not only the freeing of the soul from sin, whether
mortal or venial, but there is also its purgation from any inclination or
attachment to either the one or the other.

It is not enough to be purged from deadly sin; we must labour incessantly
to rid ourselves of any love, however slight, of the sin from which we have
been cleansed, otherwise we shall be only too likely to fall back into it
again. It is the same as regards venial sins. Our Blessed Father speaks of
this purgative way in his Philothea as follows:

"We can never be wholly pure from venial sins, at least, never for any
continuous length of time, but we can and may get rid of any sort of
affection for these lesser faults. Assuredly it is one thing to tell
falsehoods once or twice, lightly and thoughtlessly, and in matters of
small importance; and another to take delight in lying and to cling fondly
to this sort of sin."[1]

Besides venial sins, there are certain natural propensities and
inclinations which are called imperfections, since they tend towards
evil, and, if unchecked, lead to excesses of various kinds. They are not,
properly speaking, sins, either mortal or venial; nevertheless they are
true failings and defects of which we must endeavour to correct ourselves,
inasmuch as they are displeasing both to God and man. Such are propensities
to anger, grief, joy, excessive laughter, flattery, favouritism, self-pity,
suspicion, over-eagerness, precipitancy, and vain affections. We must
strive to rid ourselves of those defects which, like weeds, spring up
without being sown in the soil of our corrupt nature, and incline us to
evil from our birth.

The means of getting rid of all these evils, whether mortal sins, venial
ones, imperfections, or attachment to any or all of these, you will find
most clearly set forth by our Blessed Father in the same book.[2]

I once asked him what was the true difference between venial sin and
imperfection, and I will try to recall his teaching on the subject that
I may impart it to you. Every venial sin is an imperfection, but every
imperfection is not a venial sin. In sin there is always malice, and malice
is in the will, hence the maxim that nothing involuntary is sin; and
according to the degree of this malice, whether great or small, and
according to the matter on which it is exercised, the sin is either mortal
or venial.

You ask me if imperfections are matters sufficient for confession, as well
as venial sin. Our Blessed Father considered that it was well to accuse
ourselves of them in order to learn from the confessor how to correct
ourselves of and get rid of them. He did not, however, think them
sufficient matter for the Sacrament, and for this reason when his penitents
only told him of imperfections he would make them add some venial sin
committed in the past, so as to furnish sufficient matter for absolution, I
say sufficient, but not absolutely necessary matter, for it is only mortal
sin that has these two qualities.

[Footnote 1: Part i. chap. 22.]
[Footnote 2: Part i. chaps. 6, 7, 22, 23, 24.]


He compares venial sin to the diamond which was thought by its presence to
prevent the loadstone from attracting iron. A soul attached to venial sin
is retarded in its progress in the path of justice, but when the hindrance
is removed God dilates the heart and makes it to run in the way of His

You ask me if a great number of venial sins can ever make up a mortal one,
and consequently cause us to lose the grace of God.

No, indeed! Not all the venial sins which ever existed could make one
mortal sin: but nevertheless, not many venial sins are needed to dispose
us to commit a mortal one, as it is written that _he that contemneth small
things shall fall by little and little,[1] and that he who loves danger
shall perish in it_.[2]

For, according to the maxim of St. Bernard, received by all spiritual
writers, not to advance in the way of God is to fall back, not to sow with
Him is to scatter, not to gather up is to lose, not to build is to pull
down, not to be for God is to be against Him, not to reap with Him is to
lay waste. Now to commit a venial sin is essentially a not working with
God, though it may not be a positive working against Him.

"Charity," says our Blessed Father, "being an active quality cannot be long
without either acting or dying: it is, say the early Fathers, symbolized
by Rachel. _Give me children_, she said to her husband, _otherwise I shall
die_.[3] Thus charity urges the heart which she has espoused to make her
fertile in good works; otherwise she will perish."

Venial sin, especially when the soul clings to it, makes us run the risk of
losing charity, because it exposes us to the danger of committing mortal
sin, by which alone charity is driven forth and banished from the soul. On
this subject our Blessed Father, in the chapter from which we have already
quoted, speaks as follows: "Neither venial sin, nor even the affection to
it, is contrary to the essential resolution of charity, which is to prefer
God before all things; because by this sin we love something outside reason
but not against reason. We make too much and more than is fit of creatures,
yet we do not positively prefer them before the Creator. We occupy
ourselves more than we ought in earthly things; yet we do not, for all
that, forsake heavenly things.

"In fine, venial sin impedes us in the way of charity, but does not put us
out of it, and, therefore, venial sin, not being contrary to charity, never
destroys charity either wholly or partially."

Further on he says: "However, venial sin is sin, and consequently it
troubles charity, not as a thing that is contrary to charity itself, but as
being contrary to its operations and progress and even to its intention.
For, as this intention is that we should direct all our actions to God, it
is violated by venial sin, which is the referring of an action to something
outside of God and of the divine will."

[Footnote 1: Eccle. iii. 27.]
[Footnote 2: Id. iii. 27.]
[Footnote 3: _The Love of God_. Book iv. chap. 2.]


There are some scrupulous minds which are perplexed by everything and
frightened at shadows. In conversation, and in mixing with others, a faulty
word which they may hear or a reprehensible action they may witness,
however much they may in their secret hearts detest it, is at once charged
upon their own conscience as a partaking in the sins of others.

They are also troubled with doubts, and are uncertain whether it is their
duty or not to denounce the faults of their neighbour, to express their
own disapproval, and to rebuke the offender. To a soul perplexed on this
subject our Blessed Father gives the following wholesome advice: "As
regards conversation, my dear daughter, do not worry about anything said
or done by others. If good, you can praise God for it, if evil, it will
furnish you with an opportunity of serving God by turning away your
thoughts from it, showing neither surprise nor irritation, since you are
not a person of sufficient importance to be able to put a stop to bad or
idle talk. Indeed, any attempt on your part to do so would make things
worse. Acting as as I bid you to do you will remain unharmed amid the
hissing of serpents and, like the strawberry, will not assimilate their
poison even though licked by their venomous tongues."


Our Saint used to say that to equivocate was, in his opinion, to canonize
lying, and that simplicity was, after all, the best kind of shrewdness. The
children of darkness, he said, use cunning and artifice in their dealings
with one another, but the children of God should take for their motto the
words: He that walketh sincerely walketh confidently.

Duplicity, simulation, insincerity always betray a low mind. If, in the
language of the wise man, _the lips that lie kill the soul_, what can be
the effect of the conversation of one who habitually speaks with a _double

[Footnote 1: Psalm xii. 3.]


Some one was praising country life, and calling it holy and innocent.

Blessed Francis replied that country life has drawbacks just as city life
has, and that as there is both good and bad company, so there is also good
and bad solitude. Good, when God calls us into it, as He says by a prophet,
_I will lead her into the wilderness and I will speak to her heart_.[1]
Bad, when it is of that kind of which it is written, _Woe to him that is

As regards holiness and innocence, he said that country folk were certainly
far from being, as a matter of course, endowed with these good qualities.

As for temptations and occasions of sin, he said: "There are evil spirits
who go to and fro in desert places quite as much as in cities; if grace
does not hold us up everywhere, everywhere we may stumble. Lot, who in the
most wicked of all cities was holy and just, when in solitude fell into
the most dreadful of sins. Men carry themselves about with them and find
themselves everywhere, and frailty can no more be got rid of by them than
can the shadow by the body that casts it.

"Many deceive themselves greatly and become their own seducers by imagining
that they possess those virtues, the sins contrary to which they do not
commit. The absence of a vice and the possession of its contrary virtue are
very different things.

"To be without folly is, indeed, to have the beginning of wisdom, but it is
a beginning so feeble as by itself scarcely to deserve the name of wisdom.

"Abstaining from evil is a very different thing from doing good, although
this abstaining is of itself a species of good: it is like the plan of a
building compared with the building itself. Virtue does not consist so much
in habit as in action. Habit is in itself an indolent sort of quality,
which, indeed, inclines us to do good, but does no more, unless inclination
be followed by action.

"How shall he who has no one in command set over him learn obedience? He
who is never contradicted, patience? He who has no superior, humility? And
how shall he who, like a misanthrope, flies from intercourse with other
men, notwithstanding that he is obliged to love them as himself, how shall
he, I say, learn brotherly love?

"There are many virtues which cannot be practised in solitude; above all,
mercy, upon the exercise of which we shall be questioned and judged at the
last day; and of which it is said: _Blessed are the merciful, for they
shall obtain mercy_."[3]

[Footnote 1: Osee ii. 14.]
[Footnote 2: Eccle. iv. 10.]
[Footnote 3: Matt. v. 7.]


It is a vanity of the understanding to think ourselves more than we really
are; but it is a far more dangerous vanity of the will to aspire to a
condition higher than our own, and to persuade ourselves that we are
deserving of it. He who thinks himself to be more than he is has in his
mind some picture of content and satisfaction, and consequently some sort
of tranquillity like one who finds his peace and repose in his riches.

But he who aspires to a condition more exalted than his own is in a
constant state of disquietude, like the needle of the compass which
trembles incessantly until it points to the north. An ancient proverb makes
the happiness of this life to consist in wishing to be what we are and
nothing more.

  _Quod sis esse velis, nihilque malis._

Blessed Francis who, in his own opinion, had already risen too high in
the hierarchy of the Church, turned his thoughts rather to giving up his
dignities than to seeking promotion. He looked forward to the calm retreat
of solitude rather than the dignity of illustrious offices.

He was even apprehensive of the high esteem in which he knew that he
was held, dreading lest he should be less the servant of God for thus
delighting men.

On one occasion some worthy soul having warned him to keep humble amid
the praises and acclamations bestowed on him, he answered: "You please me
greatly by recommending holy humility to me, for, do you know, when the
wind gets imprisoned in our valleys, among our mountains, even the little
flowers are beaten down and the trees are uprooted. I am situated rather
high up and, in my post of Bishop, am tossed about most of all. O Lord!
save us: command these winds of vanity to cease to blow and there will be a
great calm. Stand firm, O my soul, and clasp very tightly the foot of our
Saviour's holy Cross: the rain which falls there in plenteous showers on
all sides stills the wind, however violent it may be.

"When I am there, O my God, as I sometimes am, how sheltered is my soul,
and how refreshed by that crimson dew! but no sooner have I moved a single
step away than the wind again takes me off my feet!"


You wish to know what St. Paul means when he says that _knowledge puffs up_
and that _charity edifies_.[1] I imagine he means by the knowledge which
puffs up, that which is destitute of charity and which consequently tends
only to vanity. _All those are vain_, say the sacred Scriptures, _who have
not the knowledge of God_;[2] and what is this knowledge of God if not
the knowledge of His ways and of His will? It is the God of knowledge who
teaches this knowledge to men; the science of the saints, the science which
makes saints, the science of salvation, a science without which all else is
absolute ignorance. He who thinks that he knows something and does not know
how to save his soul, does not yet know what it is most important to know.
Those who know many things without knowing themselves, and without knowing
God in the manner in which even in this present life he can be known
and desires to be known, resemble the giants in the fable, who piled up
mountains and then buried themselves beneath them.

Do not, however, think for a moment that, in order to save our souls, or to
be truly devout, we must be ignorant; for, as sugar spoils no sauce,
true knowledge is in no wise opposed to devotion. On the contrary, by
enlightening the understanding it contributes much to fervour in the will.
Listen to what our Blessed Father says on this subject in his Theotimus:
"Knowledge is not of itself contrary, but very useful to devotion. Meeting,
they should marvellously assist one another; though it too often happens
through our misery that knowledge hinders the birth of devotion, because
_knowledge puffeth up_ and makes us proud, and pride, which is contrary
to all virtue, ruins all devotion. Without doubt, the eminent science
of a Cyprian, an Augustine, a Hilary, a Chrysostom, a Basil, a Gregory,
a Bonaventure, a Thomas, not only taught these Saints to value, but
greatly enhanced their devotion; as again, their devotion not only
supernaturalized, but eminently perfected their knowledge."[3]

[Footnote 1: 1 Cor. viii. 1.]
[Footnote 2: Sap. xiii. 1.]
[Footnote 3: Book vi. chap. 4.]


It was Blessed Francis' opinion that scruples have their origin in a
_cunning_ self-esteem. I call it _cunning_ because it is so subtle and
crafty as to deceive even those who are troubled by it. As a proof of this
assertion he evidenced the fact that "those who suffer from this malady
will not acquiesce in the judgment of their directors, however discreet and
enlightened in the ways of God they may be; obstinately clinging to their
own opinions instead of, by humble submission, accepting the remedies
and consequent peace offered to them. Who can wonder at the prolonged
sufferings of the sick man who resolutely refuses every salutary remedy
which he is entreated to take? Who will pity one who suffers himself to die
of hunger and thirst, although everything that could satisfy the one and
quench the other be placed within his reach?

"Holy Scripture teaches us that the crime of disobedience is equal in
guilt to that of idolatry and witchcraft. But what shall we say of the
disobedience of the scrupulous, who so idolize their own opinions as to be
absolutely slaves to them, and whom no sort of remonstrance or reasoning
will convince of the idleness of their unfounded fears.

"They will tell you, in answer to your judicious and soothing arguments,
that you are only flattering them, that they are misunderstood, that they
do not explain themselves clearly, and so on.

"This is, indeed, a malady difficult of cure, because, like jealousy,
its fires are fed by everything with which it comes in contact. May God
preserve you from this lingering and sad disease, which I regard as the
quartan fever or jaundice of the soul."


"If we only knew how to make a good use of temptations," said our Blessed
Father, "instead of dreading, we should welcome them--I had almost said
desire them. But because our weakness and our cowardice are only too well
known to us, from our long experience, and from many sorrowful falls, we
have good reason to say, _Lead us not into temptation_.

"If to this just mistrust of ourselves we united confidence in God, who is
stronger to deliver us from temptation than we are weak in falling into it,
our hopes would rise in proportion to the lessening of our fears. _For by
Thee I shall be delivered from temptation, and through my God I shall go
over a wall._"[1]

With such a support can we not boldly tread upon the asp and the basilisk,
and trample under foot the lion and the dragon?[2] As it is in temptation
that we learn to know the greatness of our courage and of our fidelity to
God, so it is by suffering temptation that we make progress in strength of
heart, and that we learn to wield the weapons of our warfare, which are
spiritual against the spiritual malice of our invisible enemies. Then it is
that our soul, clothed in the panoply of grace, appears terrible to them as
an army in battle array, and as the hosts of the Lord.

Some think that all is lost when they are tormented by thoughts of
blasphemy and impiety, and fancy that their faith is gone. Yet as long as
these thoughts merely distress them and they are resisted, they cannot harm
them, and such stormy winds only serve to make souls become more deeply
rooted in faith. As much has to be said of temptations against purity and
other virtues, for the maxim is quite a general one.

There is no good Christian who is not tempted. The angel said to Tobias:
_Because thou wast acceptable to God it was necessary that temptation,
should prove thee._[3]

[Footnote 1: Psalm xxvi. 30.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm xc. 13.]
[Footnote 3: Job xii. 13.]


You ask me why God permits the enemy of our salvation to afflict us with so
many temptations, which put us into such great danger of offending God and
losing our soul. I might answer you in words from Holy Scripture, but I
will give you our Blessed Father's teaching on the subject, which is only
an interpretation of what St. Paul and St. James tell us in their epistles:
"Do you know," he says, "what God does in temptation?"

He permits the evil one to furbish up his wares and to offer them to us for
sale, so that by the contempt with which we look upon them we may show our
affection for divine things.

Must you then, my dear sister, my dearest daughter, because of this
temptation, fret and disquiet yourself and change your manner of thought?

Oh, no! by no means, it is the devil who prowls round about your soul,
peeping and prying to see if he can find an open door. He did this with
Job, with St. Anthony, with St. Catherine of Siena, and with an infinity of
good souls whom I know, as well as with my own, which is good-for-nothing,
and which I do not know. And have you, my good daughter, to distress
yourself about what the devil attempts? Let him wait outside and keep all
the avenues of your soul fast shut. In the end he will be tired out, or if
not God will force him to raise the siege.

Remember what I think I have told you before. It is a good sign when the
devil stirs up such a tumult outside the fortress of your will, for it
shows he is not inside it.

One cause of our interior trouble and mental disturbance is the difficulty
we experience in discerning whether a temptation comes from within or from
without, whether it is from our own heart or from the enemy, who takes up
his position as a besieger before that heart? You may apply the following
test in order to find out.

Does the temptation please or displease you? One of the ancient Fathers
says that sins which displease us cannot harm us. How much less then
displeasing temptations!

Notice that, as long as the temptation displeases you there is nothing to
fear, for why should it displease if not because your will does not consent
to it?"

"But," you say, "if I, as it were, dally with the temptation, either from
inadvertence or torpor, or slothful unwillingness to reject and repel it,
is not that in a way taking pleasure in it?" "The evil of temptation is
not measured by its duration: it may be working against us all our life
long, but while it displeases us it cannot make us fail into sin; on the
contrary, being repulsive to us, this very antipathy not only preserves
us from being infected by its venom, but adds strength to our virtue and
jewels to our crown."

"But I am so much afraid of taking pleasure in it!"

"That very fear is a proof that it displeases you, for we are not afraid of
that which pleases us. We are not terrified except by what displeases us,
just as we can only enjoy what is good or has the appearance of being good.

"If you were able all the time to look upon temptation as an evil it cannot
have pleased you."

"Still, is it wrong to find pleasure in thinking of what is sinful?" "If
this pleasure is felt before we reflect that the thing is evil it is of no
consequence, since voluntary malice and consent are needed to make this
pleasure a sin."

"How shall we know whether or not we have yielded this consent?"
"Assuredly, it is difficult to define the nature of voluntary consent. This
difficulty gave rise to the saying of the Psalmist, _Who can understand

"This, too, is why he prays to be delivered from his secret faults, that is
to say, from sins which he cannot easily discern."

I will, however, on this subject give you another excellent lesson which I
learned from our Blessed Father.

"When you are doubtful," he said to me, "whether or not you have consented
to evil, always take the doubt for a negative, and for this reason. A true
and full consent of the will is necessary to form a real grave sin, there
being no sin in what is not voluntary. Now full consent is so clear that
there can never be left in the mind a shadow of doubt about its having
taken place."

This plain teaching surely cuts the gordian knot of our perplexities.

[Footnote 1: Psalm xviii. 13.]


There are two opinions held by theologians on the subject of the
Incarnation. Some hold that had Adam never sinned the Son of God would not
have become incarnate, others that the Incarnation would have taken place
even had our first parents remained in the state of innocence and original
justice in which they were created. For, as they urge, the Word was made
flesh, not to merely be a redeemer and restorer of the human race, but that
through Him God might be glorified. Our Blessed Father held this second
opinion, which he advanced, not only in familiar conversation and in the
pulpit, but also in his writings. In his Theotimus he expresses himself
thus: "God knew from all eternity that He could create an innumerable
multitude of beings with divers perfections and qualities, to whom He
might communicate Himself. And considering that amongst all the different
communications which were possible, none was so excellent as that of
uniting Himself to some created nature, in such sort that the creature
might be engrafted and implanted in the Divinity, and become one single
person with it: His infinite goodness, which of itself and by itself tends
towards communication, resolved and determined to communicate Himself in
this manner. So that, as eternally there is an essential communication in
God, by which the Father communicates all His infinite and indivisible
divinity to the Son in producing Him, and the Father and the Son together
producing the Holy Ghost, communicate to Him also their own singular
divinity; so this sovereign sweetness was so perfectly communicated
externally to a creature that the created nature and the divinity retaining
each of them its own properties were, notwithstanding so united together
that they were but one same person. Now of all the creatures which that
Sovereign Omnipotence could produce, He thought good to make choice of
human nature which afterwards in effect was united to the person of God
the Son, He created it, and to it He destined the incomparable honour of
personal union with His divine majesty, to the end that for all eternity it
might enjoy above all others the treasures of His infinite glory."[1]

This thought has always pleased me exceedingly; this thought, I mean, of
the communication of God, in the worthiest manner possible, namely, through
the mystery of the Incarnation. But ah! What shall we then say of the
mystery of the most holy Eucharist, which is, as it were, an extension of
the Incarnation! In the holy Eucharist the Son of God, in His overflowing
mercy, not content with having made Himself the Son of Man, a sharer in
our humanity and our Brother, has invented a wondrous way of communicating
Himself to each one of us in particular. By this He incorporates Himself in
us, and us in Him. He dwells in us, and makes us dwell in Him, becoming
our food and support, flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone, by a grace
which surpasses every other grace, since it contains in itself the author
of all grace! Truly, we possess in this divine mystery, though veiled and
hidden under the sacramental species, Him whom the angels desire to see,
even while they see Him continually. Nor is there any difference between
their possession and ours, except in the manner in which it is effected.
For if they have the advantage of sight, we have that of a closer intimacy,
seeing that He is only before them as the Beatific Vision, while He
is actually within us, as the living and life-giving bread, a bread
strengthening our heart, or, rather, the very heart of our heart, or the
soul of our heart, or the heart of our soul. And if the heart of the
disciples of Emmaus burned within them when He only spoke to them on their
way, what ardour should be kindled in our breasts by the receiving of Him
who came to bring the fire of divine love upon earth, that it might inflame
and kindle all hearts!

You ask me whether we are happier in having been redeemed from that state
of original sin into which our first parents fell than had we been born in
the innocence which was theirs at their creation.

At first sight it would seem that never to have been bound by the chain of
misery and evil with which the first sin of Adam fettered us would surely
have been more desirable than even to be loosed from it by the divine
goodness! This, however, is a merely human judgment, revealed to us by
flesh and blood. The light of faith, far brighter and more ennobling,
teaches us a sublimer lesson. This is what our Blessed Father says on the

"Who can doubt of the abundance of the means of salvation, since we have
so great a Saviour, for the sake of whom we have been made, and by whose
merits we have been ransomed. For He died, for all, because all were dead,
and His mercy was more far-reaching when He built up anew the race of men
than Adam's misery when he ruined it.

"Indeed, Adam's sin was so far from quenching God's love for mankind, that,
on the contrary, it stirred it up, and invited it. So that by a most sweet
and loving re-action, love was quickened by the presence of sin, and as if
re-collecting its forces for victory over evil, made _grace to superabound
where sin had abounded_.[2] Whence, Holy Church, in an excess of devout
wonder, cries out (upon Easter-eve), 'O truly necessary sin of Adam, which
was blotted out by the death of Jesus Christ! O happy fault which merited
to have such and so great a Redeemer!' Truly, Theotimus, we may say, as did
he of old, 'We were ruined, had we not been undone; that is, ruin brought
us profit, since in effect human nature, through being redeemed by its
Saviour, has received more graces than ever it would have received if Adam
had remained innocent.'"[3]

One of the marvels of divine Omnipotence is that it knows by a secret
power, reserved to itself alone, how to draw good from evil, the contrary
from the contrary; water from, fire, as in the furnace of the three
children[4] and fire from water, as in the sacred fire which was found in a
well, the thick water of which was changed into fire. By this secret power
He makes all things work together for good to those who love Him.

"Truly," says our Blessed Father, in the same place, "as the rainbow
touching the thorn _aspalathus_, makes it more odoriferous than the
lily, so our Saviour's Redemption, touching our miseries makes them more
beneficial and worthy of love than original innocence could ever have been.

"_I say to you_, says our Saviour, _there shall be joy in Heaven upon one
sinner that doth penance; more than upon ninety-nine just, who need not
penance_,[5] and so the state of redemption is a hundred times better than
that of innocence.

"Verily, by the watering of our Saviour's Blood, made with the hyssop
of the Cross, we have been re-clothed in a whiteness incomparably more
excellent than the snowy robe of innocence. We come out, like Naaman, from
the stream of salvation more pure and clean than if we had never been
leprous, to the end that the divine majesty, as He has ordained also for
us, should not be _overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good_,[6] _that
mercy_ (as a sacred oil) should keep _itself above judgment_,[7] and _God's
tender mercies be over all His works_."[8]

[Footnote 1: Book ii. chap. 4.]
[Footnote 2: Col. i. 16.]
[Footnote 3: _The Love of God_. Book ii, c. 5.]
[Footnote 4: Daniel iii. 50.]
[Footnote 5: Luke xv. 7.]
[Footnote 6: Rom. xii.]
[Footnote 7: James ii. 13.]
[Footnote 8: Psalm cxliv. 9.]


These two Sacraments were styled by Blessed Francis the two poles of the
christian life, because around them that life ever revolves. One purifies
the soul, the other sanctifies it. He greatly admired the saying of St.
Bernard that all the spiritual good which we possess is derived from the
frequent use of the Sacraments. He would say that those who neglect the
Sacraments are not unlike the people in the Parable, who would not accept
the invitation to the Marriage Feast, and who thus incurred the wrath of
the Lord who had prepared it. Some plead as their excuse that they "are not
good enough"; but how are they to become good if they keep aloof from the
source of all goodness? Others say: "We are too weak"; but is not this the
Bread of the strong? Others; "We are infirm"; but in this Sacrament have
you not the Good Physician Himself? Others: "We are not worthy"; but does
not the Church direct that even the holiest of men should not approach
the Feast without having on his lips the words: _Lord! I am not worthy
that Thou shouldst enter under my roof?_ To those who plead that they are
overwhelmed with cares and with the business of this life, He cries: _Come
to me all you that labour and are burdened and I will refresh you._[1] If
any fear to come lest they should incur condemnation, are they not in yet
greater danger of being condemned for keeping away? Indeed, the plea of
humility is as false as that of Achaz, who detracted from the glory of God
when he feigned to be afraid of tempting Him. What better way of learning
to receive Him well can there be than receiving Him often? Is it not so
with other acts which are perfected by frequent repetition?

He extolled highly the precept of St. Augustine on this subject. It was his
desire that any person (he was speaking of the laity) free from mortal sin,
and without any affection for it, should communicate confidently yet humbly
every Sunday,[2] if not advised by his confessors to do so oftener. He does
not say "anyone who is without venial sin," for from that who is exempt?

His sentiments with regard to Holy Communion were most sweet and so
tempered by divine love, that reverent fear was in no way prejudicial to
confidence, neither was confidence to reverence. He fervently desired that
we should annihilate ourselves when receiving the Blessed Sacrament, as
our Lord annihilated Himself in order to communicate Himself to us, bowing
down the heaven of His greatness to accommodate and unite Himself with our

But you will be better satisfied to hear his feelings expressed in his own

They were addressed, not directly, but through the medium of another, to a
person, who from a false idea of humility dared not approach this divine
mystery, and who, in the words but not in the spirit of St. Peter,
entreated her Saviour to depart from her.

"Tell her," he says, "to communicate fearlessly, calmly, yet with all
humility, in order to correspond with the action of that Spouse who in
order to unite Himself with us annihilated Himself and lovingly abased
Himself to the extent even of becoming our food and our pasturage;
condescending thus to us who are the food and pasturage of worms. Oh! my
daughter, those who communicate according to the spirit of the Heavenly
Bridegroom, annihilate themselves and say to our Lord: feed on me, change
me, annihilate me, convert me into Thyself. There is nothing, I think,
in the world of which we have more absolute possession, or over which we
have more entire dominion, than over the food which, for our own
self-preservation, we annihilate.

"Well, our Lord has condescended to this excess of love, namely, to give
Himself to us for our food; and as for us, what ought not we to do in order
that He may possess us, that He may feed on us, that He may make us what He

Read what is said on this subject in the "Devout life" and the

[Footnote 1: Matt. xi. 28.]
[Footnote 2: By the recent Decree of Pope Pius X., His Holiness
desires that, with such dispositions, it should be daily.--[Ed.]]


Our Blessed Father thought so much of frankness, candour and ingenuousness
in Confession, that when he met with these virtues in his penitents he was
filled with joy and satisfaction.

It happened one day that he received a letter from one of his spiritual
daughters telling him that she had been betrayed into the sin of malicious
envy (by which she meant jealousy) of one of her sisters. He answered her
letter as follows: "I tell you with truth that your letter has filled my
soul with so sweet a perfume, that I can affirm that I have not for a long
time read any thing so consoling. I repeat, my dear daughter, that this
letter awakens in me such fresh ardour of love towards God who is so good,
and towards you whom He desires to make so good, that I can only make an
act of thanksgiving for this to His divine Providence. Thus it is, my
daughter, that we must always without a moment's hesitation thrust our
hands into the secret recesses of our hearts to tear out the foul growths
which have sprung up there, from the mingling of our self-love with our
humours, inclinations, and antipathies. Oh, my God! What satisfaction for
the heart of a most loving Father to hear a beloved daughter protest that
she has been envious and malicious! How blessed is this envy, since it is
followed by so frank a confession! Your hand in writing your letter made a
stroke more valiant than ever did that of Alexander!"


I have told you by word of mouth, and now I repeat in writing, so that you
may better remember it, that the scruple of scruples is not to dare to
change one's Confessor. The Priest who should put this scruple into your
head deserves to be left, as himself scrupulous, and unsafe. Virtue, like
truth, is always to be found half way between two faulty extremes. To be
always changing one's Confessor, and never to dare to do so, or sooner to
omit Confession than to confess to any one but our usual Confessor, are two
blame-worthy extremes.

In the one case we show ourselves volatile and ill-balanced; in the other
we are cowardly. If you ask me which of the two is the more to be avoided
I should say the second, and this because it seems to me to indicate a low
tone of mind, human respect, attachment to the creature, and in general
a slavish spirit which is quite contrary to the spirit of God, who only
dwells there, where there is perfect liberty.

St. Paul tells us that being redeemed by the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ
we ought not to make ourselves slaves of men.

Possibly, however, you would more readily submit your judgment to that of
our Blessed Father than to mine.

I remind you then how highly he thought of this holy christian liberty. You
may be quite sure that he inculcated it on persons like yourself living in
the world since, as I am going to show you, he made a great point of it
with his Religious.

The Holy Council of Trent having decreed that three or four times a year
all nuns should have extra-ordinary Confessors given to them to relieve
them from the yoke and constraint which might ensue from being always under
the direction of one and the same ordinary Confessor, our Blessed Father
decreed that every three months, in the four Ember weeks the Sisters of the
Visitation, of which Order he was the Founder, should have an Extraordinary
Confessor, carefully recommending to the Superiors to ask for one even
oftener for any Sisters who might desire or really need his help.

Blessed Teresa[1] was also very careful to ensure to her Sisters this holy
and reasonable liberty, which renders the yoke of the Saviour sweet and
light as it should be, and her daughters, the Carmelites, still value their
privilege as she did.

Our Blessed Father used, moreover, to say that Religious men to whom
the direction of nuns was entrusted, and all convents subject to their
jurisdiction, would do well to observe the excellent rule and custom
some of them have of never leaving a Confessor for more than a year in a

He added that Superiors should reserve to themselves the power of
withdrawing Confessors even before the time for which they were appointed
had expired, and indeed whenever it may please them, and should not keep
any Confessor longer than the time for which he was appointed, unless for
some very urgent reason or pressing necessity.

To show you that it was not only to me that our Blessed Father expressed
his opinion on this point, this is how he wrote about it to a Superior of
the Visitation.

"We ought not to be so fickle as to wish without any substantial reason to
change our Confessor, but, on the other hand, we should not be immovable
and persistent when legitimate causes make such a change desirable, and
Bishops should not so tie their own hands as to be unable to effect the
change when expedient, and especially when either the Sisters or the
Spiritual Father desire it."

[Footnote 1: St. Teresa was not then canonised. [Ed.]]


In the year 1619 our Blessed Father went to Paris where he remained for
eight or nine months. I was there at the same time, having been summoned
for the Advent and Lent sermons.

Many pious persons came to consult him on their spiritual concerns, and
thus gave him the opportunity of observing the variety of methods employed
by God to draw souls to Himself, and also the different ways in which His
Priests guide and direct these same souls.

Among others, he told me of two priests celebrated for their preaching, and
who also applied themselves most zealously to the administration of the
Sacrament of Penance. Both were faithful servants of God and exemplary in
the discharge of their functions, but yet so different in their methods of
direction, that they almost seemed to oppose one another, though both had
the one single aim in view, namely, to promote the service and the glory of
God, "One of them," said the Saint, "is severe and almost terrible in his
preaching. He proclaims the judgments of God like the very trump of doom.
In his special devotions, too, he speaks of nothing but mortifications,
austerities, constant self-examination and such like exercises. Thus,
by the wholesome fears with which he fills the minds of his penitents,
he leads them to an exact observance of God's law, and to an anxious
solicitude for their own salvation. He does not harass them with scruples,
and yet keeps them in a marvellous state of subjection.

"The effect of his direction is that God is greatly feared and dreaded by
them, that they fly from sin as from a serpent, and that they earnestly
practise virtue. This divine fear is coupled with a high esteem for their
Director, and a friendship for him, holy indeed, but so strong and vehement
that it seems to these souls as though, were they to lose their guide, they
must needs go astray.

"The other Director leads souls to God by quite a different path. His
sermons are always on the love of God. He inculcates the study of virtue
rather than the hatred of vice. He makes his penitents love virtue more
because it pleases God, than because it is itself worthy of love, and he
makes them hate vice more because it displeases God than because of the
sufferings which it brings upon those who are slaves to it.

"The effect of this direction is to make souls conceive a love for God
that is great, pure and disinterested; also a great affection for their
neighbour for the love of God; while, as for their sentiments towards their
Director, they approach him with reverential awe, beholding God in him and
him in God, having no affection for his person beyond that due to all our

Our Blessed Father never told me the name of this Director, nor even gave
me the slightest hint as to who he was, and I therefore sought no further
explanation, contenting myself with admiring the ways of God and His
various desires for the good of the souls whom He calls to His service. I
became penetrated, too, with the conviction that by many different routes
we can reach one and the same goal. _Let every spirit praise the Lord_.


I asked him one day who was his Director. Taking from his pocket the
_Spiritual Combat_, he said: "You see my Director in this book, which,
from my earliest youth, has, with the help of God, taught me and been my
master in spiritual matters and in the interior life. When I was a student
at Padua, a Theatine Father instructed and gave me advice from it, and
following its directions all has been well with me. It was written by a
very holy member of that celebrated congregation, the author concealing his
own name under that of his Orders which makes use of the book almost in the
same way as the Jesuits make use of the Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola."

I reminded him that in his Philothea[1] he recommends people to have a
living Director. "That is true," he answered, "but have you not noticed
that I say he must be chosen out of ten thousand?[2] Because there is
scarcely one in a thousand to be found having all the qualities necessary
for this office, or who, if he has them, displays them constantly and
perseveringly; men being so variable that they never remain in one state,
as Holy Scripture assures us."[3]

I asked him if we must then run uncertainly and pursue our way without
guidance. He answered: "We must seek it among the dead; among those who are
no longer subject to passion or change, and who have ceased to be swayed
by human interests. As an Emperor of old said that his most faithful
counsellors were the dead, meaning books, so we may say that our safest
spiritual directors are books of piety."

"But what," I asked, "are those who cannot read to do?" "They," he replied,
"must have good books read to them by people in whom they can have absolute
confidence. Besides, such simple souls as these do not, as a rule, trouble
themselves much about methods of devotion, or, if they do, God for the most
part bestows on them such graces as to make it plain that He Himself is
their Teacher, and that they are truly _Theodidacts, or taught by God_."

"Must we then," I asked, "give up all spiritual guides?" "By no means," he
answered, "for besides the fact that we are bound to obey the law of God
coming to us through our Superiors, both spiritual and temporal, we must
also defer most humbly to our Confessors, to whom we lay bare the secrets
of our conscience. Then, when we find difficulties in the books which we
have chosen for our guidance, difficulties which, as we read, we cannot
settle to our satisfaction, we must consult those who are well versed in
mystic language, or rather, I should say, in spiritual matters, and listen
humbly to their opinion. We must not, however, always consult the same man;
for, besides the fact that Holy Scripture warns us that _there is safety
where there is much counsel_,[4] we must remember that if we always
consulted the same living oracle, he would in time become superior to the
dead one; that he would make himself a supplanter, a second Jacob, pushing
aside the book which we had chosen for our guide, and assuming dominion and
mastery over both dead and living, that is, over the book and the reader
who had chosen it for his direction. To prevent this encroachment, I had
almost said this unfelt and imperceptibly increasing tyranny, it is well
when we meet with difficulties to consult several persons, following the
advice given by the Holy Ghost through the Apostle St. Paul not to make
ourselves the slaves of men, having been delivered and redeemed at so great
a price, even that of the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ."[5]

In answer to my remark that I very much preferred as a book _The Imitation
of Christ_ to the _Spiritual Combat_, he said that they were both the works
of writers truly animated by the Spirit of God, that they were indeed
different in many respects, but that it might be said of each of them as it
is of the Saints: _There was not found the like to him._[6]

He added that in such matters comparisons were always more or less odious;
that beauty, however it might vary, was always beauty; that the book of
_the Imitation_ had in some respects great advantages over _the Combat_,
but that the latter had also some advantages over _the Imitation_. Among
these he mentioned with special commendation its arrangement and that it
goes deeper into things and more thoroughly to the root of the matter. He
concluded by saying that we should do well to read the one and not neglect
the other, for that both books were so short that to do this would not put
us to much expenditure of time or trouble.

He valued _the Imitation_, he said, greatly for its brevity and conciseness
as an aid to prayer and contemplation, but _the Combat_ as a help in active
and practical life.

[Footnote 1: Book 1. c. 10.]
[Footnote 2: This hyperbole of St. Francis is sometimes pushed to excess,
It is a question, too, if M. Camus always understood him rightly. [ED.]]
[Footnote 3: Job xiv. 2.]
[Footnote 4: Prov. xi. 14.]
[Footnote 5: 1 Cor. vii. 23.]
[Footnote 6: Eccle. xliv. 20.]


Zeal was a virtue which Blessed Francis ever regarded with a certain amount
of suspicion, "It is," he used to say, "generally speaking, impetuous, and
although it strives to exterminate vice by reproving sinners, it is apt, if
not guided by moderation and prudence, to produce most disastrous effects.

"There is a zeal so bitter and fierce that it pardons nothing, exaggerates
the smallest faults, and, like an unskilful physician, only makes the
disease of the soul more serious. There is zeal of another kind, which is
so lax and weakly tender, that it forgives everything, thinking in so doing
to practise charity, which is patient and kind, seeks not her own, and
bears all wrongs done to her even joyfully; but such zeal, too, is quite
mistaken, for true charity cannot endure without grief any wrong done to
God, that is to say, anything contrary to His honour and glory.

"True zeal must be accompanied by knowledge and judgment. It pardons
certain things, or, at least, winks at them, until the right time and place
are come for correcting them; it reproves others when it sees there is
hope of amendment, leaving no stone unturned when it thinks there is a
possibility of preserving or advancing the glory of God.

"It is certain that zeal tempered with gentleness is far more efficacious
than that which is turbulent and boisterous. This is why the Prophet,
wishing to demonstrate the power of the Messiah to bring the whole universe
under the sweet yoke of obedience to Him, does not speak of Him as the Lion
of the Tribe of Juda, but as the Lamb, the Ruler of the Earth. The Psalmist
says the very same thing in a few words: _Mildness is come upon us, and we
shall be corrected._"

I was complaining one day to our Saint of injuries which I had suffered
through the mistaken zeal of some persons of eminent virtue, and he replied
thus: "Do you not know that the best honey is made by the bees which have
the sharpest sting?" It is true, indeed, that nothing hurts us so much as
wrong done by those on whose support we reckoned, as David knew well when
he said: "_For if my enemy had reviled me, I would verily have borne with
it, and if he that hated me had spoken great things against me, I would
perhaps have hidden myself from him, but thou, a man of one mind, my guide,
and my familiar--who together didst take sweet meats with me: in the house
of God we walked with consent._"[1]

"Consider," the Saint went on to say, "by whom Jesus Christ was betrayed."
Listen to the words spoken by him through the mouth of His Prophet, spoken
moreover of His most sacred wounds, "_With these I was wounded in the house
of them that loved me._"[2]

And, after all, is not hope always at the bottom of Pandora's box? Virtuous
people carried away by this mistaken zeal, will, directly their eyes are
opened, only too gladly recognise the truth, and will love you more than
ever. Pray to God to enlighten them and to deliver you from the attacks of
calumny. And if the worst comes to the worst, is it not the duty of a true
Christian to bless those who curse him, to pray for those who persecute
him, and to render good for evil, provided he really wishes to be a
faithful child of the Heavenly Father, who makes His sun to shine, and His
rain to fall, on the wicked as well as on the good.[3]

Let your sighs and lamentations be breathed softly into the ear of God
alone, saying to Him:

"_They will curse, and Thou wilt bless, and they that look to Thee shall
not be confounded._"[4]

[Footnote 1: Psalm liv. 13-16.]
[Footnote 2: Zach. xiii. 6.]
[Footnote 3: Matt. v. 44-45.]
[Footnote 4: Psalm cviii. 28.]


When he instituted the Congregation of the Visitation of Holy Mary in the
town of Annecy, where he resided, he had no intention either of multiplying
Religious Houses or of forming a new Order or Institute with vows, of which
he said there were already enough in the Church. His idea was to form an
assembly of devout widows and maidens, free and unbound either by monastic
vows or enclosure, who should, in their house, occupy themselves with
prayer and manual labour, only going out for two objects, namely, to
discharge their own domestic duties or to perform works of mercy done for
their neighbour to the glory of God. Those who embraced this mode of life
practised it with such success that not only the town of Annecy, but all
the country round felt the influence of their holy life, and was greatly
edified by their example; while the sick and poor, whom they visited in
their distress, were both consoled and relieved by them.

Later on, these holy women formed a little settlement at Lyons, but not
to the satisfaction of the then Archbishop, afterwards Cardinal, de
Marquemont. This Prelate, although a person of much excellence, having
lived the greater part of his life in Rome, where he was Auditor to the
Rota, was so thoroughly imbued with all the Italian maxims as to the
management of women that he could not endure their living thus without
vows or enclosure. He therefore not only advised, but even urged our
Blessed Father to insist upon their choosing some one of the monastic
Rules approved by the Church, and upon their taking perpetual vows, and
preserving an inviolable enclosure. Our Blessed Father, who was extremely
pliable, condescending, and ready to yield to the will of others, allowed
himself to be persuaded by this great Prelate.

The Archbishop then promised that he would submit to the approbation of
Rome the Constitutions which the holy Bishop had prepared for the guidance
of this simple community, provided that they were in accordance with the
Rule of St. Augustine.

Our Blessed Father also induced his dear daughters to lay aside their
original manner of life in order to embrace this second, which took the
shape of an Order properly so called, having perpetual vows.

Since this change he has often told me that the Congregation owed its
establishment simply to the providence and ordering of God, Whose Spirit
breathes where He wills, and Who effects changes with His own right hand
when it pleases Him; and Whose own perfection it is which makes His works
admirable in our eyes.

"As for me," he once said to me, "I am filled with astonishment when I
reflect that, alone and unaided, but with extraordinary calmness of mind, I
have done what I wished to undo, and undone what I wished to do."

"What do you mean by that?" I asked. And he replied: "I never thought for a
moment of forming a Religious Order, being of opinion that their number is
already amply sufficient. No, I only intended to gather together a little
company of maidens and widows without solemn vows and without enclosure,
having no wealth, but that of holy charity, which is indeed all silk and
gold, and is the great bond which unites all Christians, the true bond
of all perfection, the bond of the Spirit of God, the spirit of holy and
absolute liberty." He went on to say that their occupation had hitherto
been, as I have already told you, prayer, manual labour, and visiting the
sick and destitute. "I fear," he added, "that there will be quite an uproar
in the little town when, under the new system, their vows and enclosure
oblige them to abandon their works of mercy. Indeed, I gave their Order the
title of the Visitation of Holy Mary that they might take for their pattern
in their visits to the sick, that visit which the Blessed Virgin paid to
her cousin St. Elizabeth, with whom she dwelt for three months, to help
her and to wait upon her. Now that they are enclosed, they will be rather
visited than visitors; but since the holy providence of God so orders it,
may that providence be for ever blessed." All that I have just told you is
clearly expressed in the letter written by him on the subject of the change
to Cardinal Bellarmine, which can be seen in the volume of his letters. In
remembrance, as it were, of his first design, he expresses his desire to
obtain from the Holy See, through the intervention of the great Cardinal,
three privileges for this Institution. The first, that it should only be
obliged to recite the office of the Blessed Virgin. The second, that widows
should be allowed to be received and to live there, wearing their secular
dress, without taking any vows, and with power to come out if at any time
the necessity of their affairs should oblige them to do so. The third, that
even married women should be allowed to enter, and to remain for a short
time with the permission of their husbands and of the Spiritual Father,
without being either Benefactresses or Foundresses. The letter justifies
all this, and is full of beautiful and sensible reasons for it. I know also
that during his lifetime, when the twelve first Houses of the Order were
established, he saw that in them all those rules were carried out.

I cannot here refrain from quoting for you a passage from Cardinal
Bellarmine's reply to the letter written to him by our Blessed Father
on this subject. It shows very plainly how highly that good and learned
Prelate approved of the first design for the constitution of this Order,
and how little he favoured the change of plan, which has, nevertheless, we
must admit, redounded greatly to the glory of God and to the edification of
the whole Church.

The Cardinal says in this letter: "I will give you the same advice as I
should take for myself were I in similar circumstances. I should then keep
these maidens and widows exactly as they are at present, not making any
change in a state of things which is so admirable. For, before the time of
Boniface VIII. there were consecrated persons in the Church, the Eastern
as well as the Western, mentioned by the Fathers. Among the Latins, St.
Cyprian, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine; among the Greeks, St.
Athanasius, St. Chrysostom, St. Basil, and many others; but they were not
enclosed in their convents in such a manner that they could not come out of
them when, necessary. And your most Reverend Lordship is aware that simple
vows are no less binding and are of no less merit in the sight of God
than solemn ones. Indeed, the solemnizing of vows, as well as the rule of
Enclosure, was originated by an ecclesiastical decree of the said Boniface
VIII. Even at the present day, the convent of noble ladies, founded by St.
Frances of Rome, nourishes in that city, although without any enclosure or
solemn profession. Therefore, if in your country maidens and widows live in
so holy a manner, without being either cloistered or enclosed, and are able
thus to be of use to those in the world, I do not see why their mode of
living should be changed."

What our Blessed Father dreaded for the Institute was what happens to those
Institutes which fail in exactitude of observance. And he often quoted
Saint Bernard's saying that though devotion had given birth to riches,
these unnatural daughters had stifled their mother. Whenever he heard of
any House established in his time beginning to complain of want of comforts
or conveniences he would say: "One day they will have only too many."
All his letters are full of exhortations to put up with discomforts, and
to lean upon Providence, casting all care upon God, Who feeds the young
ravens, satisfies the hunger of all flesh, and fills every living creature
with blessings. Wealth, not poverty, was what he feared for his Order. This
is what he says in the Constitutions: "For the more perfect observance of
the holy virtue of poverty, when once the buildings of the convents are
finished, the revenues shall be limited according to the place where each
convent is situated, to the end that even in this a proper mean may be
kept, and that there be no superfluity of goods in the Community, but only
a fair sufficiency, and when this is once attained nothing further shall
be taken for the reception of the Sisters coming to it, but what shall
be requisite to keep up and maintain well the just competency of the

And in the letter which he wrote to the most Serene Infanta, Margaret of
Sovoy, Dowager Duchess of Mantua, to invite her to take this Congregation
under her protection, he says:

"This Congregation does not solicit alms, but is established in such a
manner that the ladies who enter it give a dowry in order to maintain
the buildings, the sacristy, the chaplain, and to defray the expenses of
illness, etc., either by means of a regular and perpetual income, or by
some other way which cannot injure anyone or interfere in any possible
manner with the payment of the taxes and subsidies due to his most Serene
Highness the Duke. I hope also that the above-mentioned Congregation will
in a few years' time be endowed with revenues sufficient for the support
of the Community, Thus widows without children, and young girls who desire
to serve God in chastity, obedience, and poverty, will have every facility
for entering it, since they will be received without any other payment than
that of a dowry or pension provided by their family for their support."

[Footnote 1: Constitution 5.]


On one occasion, some one speaking to him, my Sisters, of your
"Congregation," said: "But what do you mean to do with all this crowd of
women and maidens? Of what use will they be to the Church of God? Are there
not already enough of such institutions into which these applicants might
be drafted? Would you not be doing better if you were to establish some
College for the training and education of Priests, and spend your time on
them instead of on these persons to whom one must repeat a thing a hundred
times before they can retain it? And then, after all, if they do, it is a
treasure buried, a candlestick under a bushel. Is it not a case of painting
on water and sowing on sand?"

Our Blessed Father, smiling graciously, answered with his extraordinary
serenity and sweetness: "It is not for me to work with costly materials;
goldsmiths handle the precious metals, potters only clay. Believe me, God
is a skilled workman; with poor tools He can accomplish wonderful work. He
is wont to choose weak things to confound the strong; ignorance to confound
knowledge, and that which is nothing to confound that which seems to be
something. What did He not do with a rod in the hand of Moses? With the
jaw-bone of an ass in that of Samson? With what did He vanquish Holofernes?
Was it not by the hand of a woman? When He willed to create the world, out
of what did He form it, save nothingness? Believe me, great fires are often
kindled from small sparks. Where was the sacred fire found when the Jews
returned from their captivity among the Medes? In a little mud!

"This weaker sex is deserving of being treated with great tenderness; we
must take much more care of it than we do of the stronger one. St. Bernard
says that the charge of souls is for the weak far more than for the strong.
Our Lord never refused His assistance to women. He was generally followed
by several of them, and they did not forsake Him on the Cross, where he was
abandoned by all His disciples excepting His beloved John. The Church
who gives the title of devout to this sex does not hold it in such low
estimation as you do.

"Besides, do you reckon as nothing the good example which they may set
wherever God calls them? Is it unimportant in your opinion to be a sweet
odour in Jesus Christ, an odour of life eternal? Of the two requisites for
a good pastor, precept and example, which think you is the most estimable?
For my part I think more of an ounce of example than of a hundred pounds'
weight of precept. Without a good life doctrine turns into scandal; it is
like a church bell, it calls others, but itself never goes in; hence the
reproach: _Physician, heal thyself_.

"Even if holy women only served as perfumes for the Church they would not
be useless. A great deal of incense is employed by her in her ceremonies!

"It is true that there are, as you say, a great many other Congregations
already in the Church, into which some of those who are enrolled in this
new one might enter; but there are, besides, many in the Visitation who,
on account of their age or infirmities, or because of their feebleness
of constitution, though they be young, are quite incapable of enduring
the bodily austerities imposed by other Orders, and therefore cannot be
admitted into them. If we receive into this one some who are strong and
healthy, it is that they may wait upon the weak and delicate, for whom this
Congregation has chiefly been instituted, and to put in practice that holy
command: _Bear ye one another's burdens, and so you shall fulfil the law of

"As for your exhortation to me to think about forming a Congregation of
Priests, do you not see that that is already planned by M. de Berulle, a
great and faithful servant of God, who has far more capacity for the work,
and much more leisure also, than I can get? Remember how heavily burdened
I am with the charge of a diocese, in which is situated such a place as
Geneva, the very fountain-head of the errors which are troubling the whole
Church. In conclusion, let us leave great designs to great workmen. God
will do what He pleases with my little plan."

[Footnote 1: Gal. vi. 2.]


Our Blessed Father held in the very highest esteem the odour of sanctity,
and revered those who by their good example shed it abroad through the
world, not for their own glory, but for the glory of God.

On another occasion when some morose and captious person was finding fault
with the Visitation Order, and after taking exception to it because of its
newness, wound up by saying to Blessed Francis, "And then of what use will
it be to the Church?" The holy Prelate answered pleasantly: "To play the
part of the Queen of Sheba." "And what part is that?" returned the man, "To
render homage to Him who is greater than Solomon, and to fill the whole
militant Jerusalem with perfumes and sweet odours."

In one of his Conferences he expresses the same thought as follows: "In
my opinion the divine Majesty has made choice of you to go forth as
perfume-bearers, seeing that He has commissioned you to go and scatter far
and wide the sweet odours of the virtues of your Institute. And as young
maidens love sweet odours (for the Bride in the Canticle of Canticles says
that the name of her Beloved is _as oil_, or balm, shedding on all sides
the sweetest perfumes, and _therefore_, she adds, the _young maidens_
have followed Him, attracted by His divine perfumes), so do you, my dear
sisters, as perfume-bearers of the Divine Goodness, go forth, shedding
all around the incomparable sweetness of sincere humility, gentleness,
and charity, so that many young maidens may be attracted thereby, and may
embrace your manner of life, and that they may even in this world enjoy,
like you, a holy loving peace and tranquillity of soul, and in the world to
come eternal happiness."


On one occasion when the Sisters of the Visitation had made a foundation
in a city famous for the piety of its inhabitants and in which there
were already a number of Religious Houses highly esteemed for external
austerities and severe discipline, they met with much criticism and even
harsh treatment on account of their own gentler and apparently easier rule.

In the end, they made known to Blessed Francis what they had to put up

I ought, perhaps, to say that, among other ill-natured remarks, they had
been reproached with having strewn a path of roses to lead them to Heaven,
and with having brought our Saviour down from the Cross; meaning that they
did not practise many corporal austerities. Those who said this quite
forgot the fact that this Order of the Visitation was founded for the
reception and consolation largely of women, whether young or old, weak in
bodily health, though strong and healthy in mind, whose feeble frames could
not support the external rigour demanded by other Communities.

Our Blessed Father, as I told you, having heard from letters addressed to
him by the Superior, of the harsh treatment and sufferings of his poor
daughters, wrote to her several times on the subject. The following words
of his are especially remarkable for their beauty:

"Beware, my daughter, of replying in any way whatever to these good
Sisters, or to their friends in the world, unless, indeed, you do so
with unalterable humility, gentleness, and sweetness. Do not defend
yourselves,[1] for such is the express command of the Holy Ghost. If they
despise your Order because it appears to them inferior to theirs, they
violate the law of charity, which does not permit the strong to despise the
weak, or the great the small. Granted that they are superior to you, do the
Seraphim despise the little Angels, or the great Saints in Paradise, those
of inferior, nay, of the lowest rank? Oh, my dear daughter, whoever loves
God the most will be the most loved by Him, and will be the most glorious
up in Heaven. Do not distress yourself, the prize is awarded to those who

[Footnote 1: Rom. xii. 19.]


Speaking of Superiors, I may tell you that Blessed Francis divided them
into four classes. "First," he said, "there are those who are very
indulgent to others, and also to themselves. Secondly, there are those who
are severe to others, and equally so to themselves. Thirdly, there are some
who are indulgent to their subordinates and rigid to themselves. Fourthly,
there are those who are indulgent to themselves and rigorous to others."

He condemned the first as careless and criminal persons, heedless of their
duties: they abandon the ship they should pilot, to the mercy of the waves.

A Superior of the second kind often spoils everything precisely because he
wishes to do too much, and falls into those exaggerations which have lent
truth to the saying, "Absolute right is absolute injustice." "He who would
rule well," runs an ancient aphorism, "must rule with a slack hand." We
must not hold our horse's bridle over tightly, for though we may save him
from stumbling we hinder him even from walking.

Superiors of the third class are better because they put a kindly
construction upon the faults and infirmities of others less known to them,
as they necessarily are, than their own. This is the reason why they are
severe to themselves and indulgent to others--a line of conduct which
generally meets with the approval of their subjects. The latter are the
more edified because they see their Superiors observing those very laws
from which they have dispensed them. It is just so with the laity: they are
mostly more anxious about the morals of their clergy than they are about
their own.

Superiors of the fourth and last kind are truly unfaithful servants. They
resemble those Pharisees who _laid on the shoulders of other men heavy
burdens which_ they themselves would not touch with the tip of their

Our Blessed Father wished that all these four classes could be merged in
a fifth, that of which the watchword should be holy equality according to
that precept both of nature and of the Gospel: "Do to others as you would
be done by; treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and
treat yourself as you know you ought to be treated." In fact, since each
man is to himself his nearest neighbour, we all recognise the injustice
of demanding in the life of others what we do not practise in our own. To
command others to do what we do not ourselves do is to be like Urias, who
carried his own condemnation and death-warrant in his bosom.

One day, in his presence, I was praising a certain Superior for his extreme
goodness, gentleness, patience, and condescension, which attracted all
hearts to him, just as flies are attracted to a honeycomb. He answered,
"Goodness is not good when it puts up with evil; on the contrary, it is bad
when it allows evils to go on which it can, and should, prevent. Gentleness
in such a case is not gentleness, but weakness and cowardice. Patience in
such a case is not patience, but absolute stupidity.

"When we suffer evil which we could prevent, we do not merely tolerate but
become accomplices in wrong-doing. I am of opinion that subjects are made
good by bad, I mean, by harsh and disagreeable Superiors. The severity of
a mother is more wholesome for a child than the petting of an indulgent
nurse, and the firmness of a father is always more useful to his children
than their mother's tenderness. The rougher the file the better it smoothes
the iron, and the more rust it rubs off; the hotter the iron, the better
the surface it gives to the cloth." He related with regard to this subject
an anecdote which will both please and profit you.

The head of a certain Religious Order, which was at the time undergoing
a vigorous reform, had, with the consent of the Provincial Chapter,
established a Novitiate House which was to serve as the one only Seminary
for the whole province. It was decided that no novice should be clothed
until he had been examined by three Fathers of the Order appointed for that
purpose. The first was to enquire into the birth and condition of those
who presented themselves for examination, the second into their literary
capacity, and the third into their manner of life and vocation. This last,
in order to get a firm grip on the pulse of the postulants, and to sound
their vocation to the very quick almost always asked them if they would
have courage and patience enough to put up with bad Superiors, bad in the
extreme, cruel, rude, peevish, choleric, melancholy, captious, pitiless,
those, in a word, whom they would find it impossible to please or satisfy.

Some, evading the question, replied that there could be none such in the
Order, or, at least, would not be suffered to remain in office, seeing that
it was governed with so much gentleness and benignity, and that its yoke
was so sweet and desirable. The examiner, who did not like evasive and
ambiguous replies of this sort, determined to get an answer that should
be straight-forward and to the point. Taking a much sterner tone, he
represented a Superior to them as a sort of slave-driver: a man who would
govern his subjects by blows and stripes, and who yet would expect them to
drink this chalice of bitterness as if offered to their lips by the hand of

Some of the postulants fearing the test, became pale or crimson with
agitation, and either answered nothing, showing by their silence that they
could not swallow the pill, or, if they answered at all, declared that
they could not believe he was speaking seriously, and that they were not

These he dismissed at once as unfit to be received into the Order.

Others, however, full of courage and constancy, still answered, that they
were prepared for any ill-treatment, and that nothing could deter them from
carrying out their God-inspiring resolution. That no creature, however
cruel and however unfeeling, could separate them from the love of Jesus
Christ, nor from His service. These the examining Father received with open
arms into the bosom of the Order.

You may judge from this how skilful was this master of novices in hewing,
hammering, and cutting the stones he was endeavouring to fit for the
spiritual edifice of the Order. Our Blessed Father himself, in spite of all
the sweetness and gentleness of his natural disposition, did not fail to
follow this plan to a certain extent, representing to all who came to him,
desiring to enter into religion, the interior and spiritual crosses which
they must resolve to carry all their life long, not the least heavy of
which, and at the same time not the least useful in helping them to make
great advance in perfection would perhaps be the severity of Superiors.


A certain community having had their Superior taken from them on account of
their complaints of the severity of his rule, and having a new one set over
them in his place, came to Blessed Francis to pour out their grievances on
the subject of their recently appointed head. They declared that he was an
ignorant man. "What is to be done with you?" cried our Blessed Father, "you
remind me of the frogs to whom Jupiter could not give a king who was to
their taste. We ought certainly to wish to have good and capable Superiors,
but still whatever they may be we must put up with them." One of the
complainers was so wanting in discretion as to say that their one-eyed
horse had been changed into a blind one. Blessed Francis suffered this jest
to pass, merely frowning slightly, but his modest silence only unchained
the tongue of another scoffer who presumed to say that an ass had been
given to them instead of a horse. Then Blessed Francis spoke, and, rebuking
this last speech, added in a tone of gentle remonstrance, that the first
remark, though far from being respectful, was more endurable because it was
a proverb and implied that a Superior had been given to them who was less
capable than his predecessor, and that this was expressed in figurative
terms, as David speaks of himself in relation to Almighty God in one of
the Psalms when he says: _I am become as a beast before Thee._[1] "The
second sarcasm, however," he added, "has nothing figurative in it, and is
absolutely and grossly insulting. We must never speak of our Superiors in
such a manner, however worthless they may be. Remember that God would have
us obey even the vicious and froward,[2] and he that _resisteth the power
resisteth the ordinance of God_."

Then taking up the defence of this much-abused Superior, "Do you imagine,"
he said, "that it is not within the power of God to exalt in a moment one
who is poor in spirit by bestowing on him the gift of intelligence? Is not
He the God of knowledge? Is it not He who imparts it to men? Are not all
the faithful taught of God?

"The science of the Saints is the science of Salvation, and this is a
knowledge more frequently given to those who are destitute of the knowledge
which puffs up. In what condition think you was Saul when God raised him to
the throne of Israel?

"He was keeping his father's asses. On what did Jesus Christ ride
triumphant on Palm Sunday? Was it not upon an ass?"

Again, in his eleventh Conference, he says: "If Balaam was well instructed
by an ass, we may with greater reason believe that God, Who gave you this
Superior, will enable him to teach you according to His will, though it may
not be according to your own."

He wound up his remarks on the subject of the new Superior by saying: "I
understand that this good man is most gentle and kind, and that if he does
not know much he does none the less well, so that his example makes up for
any deficiency in his teaching. It is far better to have a Superior who
does the good which he fails in teaching, than one who tells us what we
ought to do, but does not himself practise it."

[Footnote 1: 1 Peter ii. 18.]
[Footnote 2: Rom. xiii. 2.]


You know, my Sisters, with what circumspection and prudence our Blessed
Father moved in the matter of foundations. During the last thirteen years
of his life, in which he established your Congregation, he only accepted
twelve convents and refused three times as many, saying, as was his wont,
"Few and good." He was always very particular about the Superiors to whom
he committed the charge of monastic houses, knowing the immense importance
of such choice and its influence upon all the members of a Religious

He was fond of comparing a convent to a beehive, and in one of his
Conferences applies this comparison to your own Order as follows:--"Your
Congregation," he says, "is like a bee-hive which has already sent forth
various swarms: but with this difference, that when bees go forth to
settle in another hive and to begin a new household each swarm chooses a
particular queen under whom they live and dwell apart.

"You, my dear souls, though you may go into a new hive, that is, begin
a new house of your Order, have always only one and the same King, our
crucified Lord, under Whose authority you will live secure and safe
wherever you may be. Do not fear that anything will be wanting to you, for,
as long as you do not choose any other King He will ever be with you;
only take great care to grow in love and fidelity to His divine goodness,
keeping as close to Him as possible. Thus all will be well with you. Learn
from Him all that you will have to do; do nothing without His counsel, for
He is the faithful Friend who will guide you and govern you and take care
of you, as with all my heart I beseech Him to do."[1]

Very often I urged him to consent to certain foundations which it was
proposed to make, but He always gave me some good reason for refusing.

It was not without trouble and difficulty that we obtained a little colony
for Belley. He often said to me: "The Sisters are as yet but novices in
piety, they must be left to grow a little stronger; have patience, for we
shall be doing quite enough if the little we do is what pleases our divine
Master. It is better for them to grow at the roots by virtue rather than
in the branches by forming new houses. Will they, do you think, be more
perfect because they have more convents?"

[Footnote 1: Conf. 6.]


Regarding the reception of the infirm, he might have exclaimed with St.
Paul: _Who is weak and I am not weak_? Blessed Francis shared largely in
this spirit, so much did he love the infirm, whether of body or of mind. He
loved the poor in spirit; poor, that is, whether in earthly goods or in the
wisdom of the world, and he used to say that their simplicity was a soil
suitable for the planting of all sorts of virtues, that it would yield much
fruit in due season. He was of opinion that during the year of Novitiate
established in all communities preparatory to the embracing of religious
life, too much attention was paid to the consideration of infirmities, both
spiritual and corporal, just as if convents were not in reality so many
hospitals for healing the diseases of body and mind. Hence, he added, came
the name of _Therapeutes_, that is, curers, healers, or operators, formerly
given to Monks.

It is true that there are certain bodily diseases which from the fact of
their being infectious necessitate the separation of such as are afflicted
with them from the healthy. So also there are spiritual maladies, such as
incompatibility of temper and incorrigibility of defects, which may make
it proper to refuse those who are thus disqualified for entering Religion,
just as in former days, persons suffering from these disabilities could be
dismissed even after Profession.

In one of his letters he thus expresses his feeling for the infirm: "I am,"
he says, "a great partisan of the infirm and am always afraid lest the
inconveniences to which they must naturally put the Community should excite
a spirit of human prudence in our convents and banish the spirit of charity
in which our Congregation was founded, and which is our safest guide in
selecting our Sisters. I take, then, the side of your infirm applicant,
and provided that she be humble and ready to recognise and appreciate your
charity, you must receive the poor girl; it will be a constant opportunity
for the Sisters to practise the holy virtue of loving-kindness."


Gentle and compassionate as his disposition was, full of tenderness, and
sympathy for the feeble and the frail, Blessed Francis was nevertheless
strict and severe in his dealings with those whom he knew to be too lenient
to themselves, either in temporal or spiritual matters.

He who practised so much severity in his own case, assuredly had the right
to advise others to do as much, and especially, like him, to refrain
from complaining at the inconveniences and sufferings endured in time of
sickness. He succeeded in inspiring his Daughters of the Visitation with
his spirit, teaching them that true Christian patience, which is neither
apathy nor insensibility, nor the dull stupid endurance of the Stoics; but
a sweet and reasonable submission to the Will of God, coupled with cheerful
obedience to the physician whom He commands us to honour, and a grateful
acceptance of the remedies prescribed for us.


It was never his opinion that nuns should be under the jurisdiction and
guidance of other Religious, especially of those of their own Order.

For this he alleged several very weighty reasons, which I have been careful
to bear in mind that I may impart them to you at the right time and place.

For the present, however, I will content myself with reading you one of his
letters, and with afterwards making a little comment upon it.

"I observe," he says, "that many influential people are inclined to think
that Religious Houses should be under the authority of the Ordinaries,
according to the old rule revived lately throughout almost the whole of
Italy; whilst others would have them to be under Superiors of their own
Order, conformably to a custom introduced about four or five hundred years
ago, and almost universally observed in France. For my own part, I confess
that I cannot bring myself to adopt the view of those who desire that
convents of women should be placed under the guidance of Religious men,
still less of the Fathers of their own Order. And in this I feel that I am
of the same mind as the Holy See, which always, where it can be reasonably
brought about, opposes itself to the government of nuns by Regulars.

"I do not say that such government is not sometimes advantageous, even at
the present day, but I do say that it would be far better if in general it
were done away with. And this for many reasons.

"It seems to me that it is no more difficult for the Pope to exempt the
nuns of any Order from the jurisdiction of the Fathers of that same Order,
than it is for him to exempt monasteries from the jurisdiction of their
Ordinary, a procedure inspired no doubt by the most excellent motives, and
that has been carried out successfully for so many centuries.

"The Pope has, as a matter of fact, kept our own nuns in France under the
rule of the Bishops, and it appears to me that these same good nuns do
not know what is good for them when they seek to be transferred to the
jurisdiction of a Religious Order, seeing that Regular Superiors are apt
to be a little rigorous in the exercise of their authority, and to deprive
those under them of holy liberty of spirit."

I would call your attention to the fact mentioned by our Blessed Father
that almost everywhere in Italy the nuns are under the guidance and
jurisdiction of the Bishops. Of this I was myself an eye-witness, and I
noticed at Florence, that out of fifty convents, only four are not under
the jurisdiction and direction of the Archbishop.

I would also remind you that the Holy Apostolic See has, as far as
possible, and for many reasons, revived this ancient form of government of
nuns. That these reasons exist it is well to bear in mind, though it may
not always be prudent to urge them in public.

Again, if in former times it was thought advisable to exempt nuns from the
guidance and jurisdiction of their Ordinaries, or Diocesan Pastors, at the
present day there are far more weighty reasons for replacing them under the
authority of the Bishops, and for taking from the Regulars this exceptional

This is exactly what our Blessed Father thought about the matter. Remember
then always that to put convents under the Bishops is to bring things back
to their first and purest state, for as regards exemption we can assuredly
say that _from the beginning it was not so_.

It seems, too, to me, that nuns who desire the guidance of Monks,
especially of Fathers of their own Order, are true daughters of Zebedee;
they know not what they ask, nor what they want, nor what they are doing.


Our Blessed Father used to praise very highly the conduct of Blessed
John of Avila as having been prompted by great strength of mind, and
extraordinary forgetfulness of self in that his zeal made him not only
love his neighbour as himself but even more than himself. I will give you
an instance of this in Francis' own words, addressed to Theotimus: "The
Blessed Ignatius of Loyola, having with such pains set up the company of
Jesus, which he saw produced many fair fruits, and foresaw many more that
would ripen in time to come, had, nevertheless, the nobleness of soul
to resolve that, though he should see it dissolved (which would be the
bitterest pain which could befall him) within half an hour afterwards,
he would be stayed and tranquil in the Will of God. John of Avila, that
holy and learned preacher of Andalusia, having a design to form a company
of reformed Priests for the advancement of God's glory, and having
already made good progress in the matter, as soon as he saw the Jesuits
in the field, thinking they were enough for that time, immediately, with
incomparable meekness and humility, renounced his own undertaking. Oh, how
blessed are such souls, bold and strong in the undertakings God proposes
to them, and withal tractable and facile in giving them up when God so
disposes. It is a mark of a most perfect Indifference to leave off doing a
good work when God pleases, and to return, our journey half accomplished
when God's Will, which is our guide, so ordains."[1] I may tell you, my
Sisters, that you have only to change the name of John of Avila into that
of the Blessed Francis de Sales, and you can apply to an event in his life
these very words. I know that he had in his mind a scheme of forming a
Congregation of Priests, not bound by monastic vows, something on the
pattern of your Order of the Visitation in its beginning; but, of course,
conformable to the calling of the Priesthood. Hearing, however, that
Pierre de Berulle, that faithful servant of God, afterwards a Cardinal,
had established the Congregation of the French Oratory, now so greatly
distinguished for its piety and learning, he abandoned his enterprise,
rejoicing that God should have given this holy commission to one less busy
than himself, and therefore more capable of ordering all things in this
holy Society, and thus promoting the glory of God. I have said, that he
meant to take the Visitation as a model of this projected Congregation of
Priests, intending them to develop, and to prosper side by side. I must
add, however, that even before the formation of your Congregation he had
made an attempt in the same direction by drawing together a little company
of hermits on the gloomy but holy mountain of Notre Dame de Voiron, and
preparing for them laws and constitutions in the observance of which they
have lived with great sanctity ever since.

You know also that his zeal was so condescending in its nature, and that he
was so little wedded to his own opinions, that, though the Visitation had
flourished for four or five years with great edification to others as well
as to itself, yet as soon as His Grace the Archbishop of Lyons, afterwards
Cardinal de Marquemont, had represented to him that it would better for
it to be re-constructed with vows and enclosures like other Orders, he
consented to change its whole constitution.

Speaking of great works undertaken for the glory of God, which, owing to
the illness or death of their founder or head, sometimes seem in danger of
falling to the ground, Blessed Francis said: "There are some undertakings
which God wishes to be begun indeed by us, but completed by others. Thus
David gathered together materials for the temple which his son Solomon
built, St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Ignatius Loyola, sighed for the grace
of martyrdom, and sought for it by all possible means; yet God would not
crown them with it, contenting Himself with the offering of their will.

"To submit ourselves simply and cheerfully to the Will of God in the
failure of undertakings which concern His glory is an act of no small

[Footnote 1: Book ix. chap. 6.]


It is certain that two great Pontiffs, Clement VIII. and Paul V., held
Blessed Francis in the highest possible esteem. Paul V. more than once when
speaking to me dwelt upon his merit, and said how suitable and indeed how
necessary such a Bishop was for a diocese like that of Geneva.

We know, too, that the same Pope often thought of raising him to the
dignity of Cardinal. Our Blessed Father was himself well aware of this, and
mentioned it in letters written to his confidential friends, some of which
have since been published.

It is probable that the fact that this honour was never conferred upon him
was owing to the political difficulties which beset the Supreme Pontiff in
these matters.

Puzzled at his not receiving the hat, I one day expressed to him my great
surprise at the delay. "Why," he answered, "can you really think this
dignity would in any way conduce to my serving our Lord and His Church
better than I can now do? Would Rome, which would be the place of my
residence, afford me more opportunities for so doing, than this post in
which God has placed me? Should I have more work there, more enemies to
fight against, more souls to direct, more cares, more pious exercises, more
visits to make, or more pastoral functions to discharge?"

"You would enter," I replied, "into the solicitude of all the churches; and
from the direction of one particular Church you would be promoted to share
in the care of the Universal Church, becoming, as it were, the co-assessor
of the Holy See." "Nevertheless," he replied, "you see Cardinals of our
own day, who when they were Bishops and had dioceses were distinguished
for their piety, quit their residence at Rome, which is only theirs by a
positive and ecclesiastical law, in order to return to their flocks among
which the law of God has fixed their homes, bidding them watch over these
flocks and feed and guide the souls entrusted to them."

He then told me a memorable circumstance concerning the great Cardinal
Bellarmine of saintly memory. That Prelate was promoted to the dignity,
unknown to himself and against his will, by Clement VIII. Under the
pontificate of Paul V., who succeeded Leo XI., he was promoted to the
Archbishopric of Capua, again contrary to his own wishes, but by the desire
of the Pope. He bowed beneath this yoke, but not until he had remonstrated
with the Holy Father, who, in reply, simply commanded him to take upon
himself the episcopal charge.

Immediately after his consecration he prepared to take up his residence at
Capua. The Pope, who desired his services at Rome, sent for him, and asked
him if he was quite resolved to live in his diocese. The Cardinal replied
that he was, because unwillingly as he had accepted this charge he had done
so with the conviction that his Holiness felt he could dispense with his
services at Rome, nor would otherwise have placed him over the diocese of
Capua. The Pope replied that he would dispense him from residing in his
diocese. "Holy Father," he answered, "that is not what I have been teaching
in the schools all my life. I have always held that the residence of
Bishops in their diocese is commanded by the law of God, and that therefore
they cannot be dispensed from observing it." "At least," returned the Pope,
"give us half the year." "And during those six months," replied Bellarmine,
"at whose hands will the blood of the lost sheep of my flock be required?"
"Then, at least, three months," pleaded the Pope. The Cardinal gave the
same answer as he had given about the six, and, in fact, soon took his
departure for Capua, where he remained in uninterrupted residence for three
years, in the course of which time, as a relaxation from the labours of his
office, he wrote his beautiful Commentary on the Psalms.

Such was the high value set by the holy Cardinal upon the residence of a
Bishop among his flock: and St. Charles Borromeo, and more recently his
worthy successor, Cardinal Borromeo, have been as uncompromising as
Bellarmine was. As for our Blessed Father, he only valued the Honours and
dignities of the Church and of the world in proportion as they afford means
for serving God and advancing His glory. This was the golden standard with
which he measured the holy City of Jerusalem.


Although in the life of our Blessed Father his promotion to the Bishopric
of Geneva is described at great length, yet, in my opinion, the subject has
been treated very superficially, and no attempt has been made to give a
full account of the matter.

The truth is that the Saint had all his life but one aim in regard to the
following out of his holy vocation, namely, to serve God in whatever sacred
office he might be called to fill. He had passed through all the various
ecclesiastical offices of Canon, Parish Priest, Provost, Dean of the
Cathedral Church, Preacher, Confessor, and Missionary, when M. de Granier,
at that time Bishop of Geneva, inspired by God, desired to make him his
successor. In this, as in all other matters, our Saint recognised the
inspiration, and with a single eye, that saw God only, committed himself
entirely to His providence.

He did nothing at all either to hinder or to further the design, leaving
it all to M. de Granier, who obtained the consent of the Duke of Savoy
to propose Francis to his Holiness. It was, however, a condition that he
should at once present himself at Rome to be examined in full Consistory.
He was therefore obliged to undertake the journey thither. This journey,
as we know, is fairly well described by the writers of his life. They tell
also of his success, and of the approval bestowed upon him by Pope Clement,
who used the inspired words: _Drink water out of thine own cistern, and the
streams of thine own well. Let thy fountains be conveyed abroad, and in the
streets divide thy waters._[1] From so excellent a vocation what but good
results could be expected? A good tree cannot bear evil fruit. We know well
how worthily Blessed Francis walked in the vocation to which he had been
called, and how the light of his holy life, like the dawn of morning, shone
more and more unto the perfect day.

In the year 1619, having come to Paris with the Princes of Savoy, he
remained there for eight months, during which time it is impossible to give
any idea of all that he did for the glory of God and the good of souls. The
eyes of all men in this great theatre were turned upon him, as were those
of the Romans upon Cato, when one day he showed himself in their assembly.

It was not only by the people of Paris that he was thought so much of, but
also by their pastor, the Cardinal de Retz (Peter de Gondi), a Prelate of
incomparable gentleness, benignity, liberality, modesty, and every other
delightful quality. The sweet attractive grace of Blessed Francis' manners
and conversation produced such an effect upon him that he at once desired
to make him his coadjutor, with right of succession.

Not expecting any opposition from the holy Bishop, and having gained the
consent of the King, he thought that nothing remained to be done but to
carry out the formalities prescribed by the Roman Congregations. Francis,
however, with marvellous adroitness, warded off the blow, leaving the
great Cardinal penetrated with admiration of his virtue if without the
satisfaction of gaining his compliance.

Among the various reasons for this refusal which are to be found in his
letters, one or two please me especially. For instance, he said that he did
not think he ought to change a poor wife for a rich one; and again, that if
he did ever quit his spouse it would not be to take another, but in order
not to have one at all, following the Apostolic counsel: _Art thou bound,
to a wife, seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife, seek not a

It is true that honours and dignities are but trifles; yet to despise
and refuse them is not a trifling thing. It is easy to disdain them from
a distance, but difficult to deal with them face to face, and either to
quit them when we possess them, or to refuse them when they are offered.
_Blessed is the rich man that is found without blemish, and that hath not
gone after gold nor put his trust in money, nor in treasures. Who is he?
and we will praise him, for he hath done wonderful things in his life._[3]

Such a one, my Sisters, believe me, was your Father and mine, my preserver
and your Founder, Blessed Francis de Sales.

[Footnote 1: Prov. v. 15, 16.]
[Footnote 2: 1 Cor. vii. 27.]
[Footnote 3: Eccle. xxxi. 8, 9.]


Good digestions assimilate all kinds of food, and convert it into wholesome
nourishment, and so in like manner holy souls turn all that they meet with
into material for instruction and into help towards their eternal profit.
Thus, the great St. Anthony, saw the Creator on every page of the book
of nature and in all living creatures. The tiniest flower, growing and
blossoming at his feet, raised his thoughts to Him Who is the Flower of the
Field and the Lily of the Valley, the Blossom springing from the root of

Those who are smitten by some passionate human love are so absolutely
possessed by it that they think of nothing else, and since their tongue
speaks out of the abundance of their heart this is their one subject of
conversation, all others being distasteful to them. They write the name of
the beloved object on rocks and trees, and wherever they can they leave
behind them some carved token or emblem of their affection.

Just so was it with our Blessed Father. His delight was to make all
subjects of conversation, all incidents that might occur, further in one
way or another the glory of God, and kindle His divine love in the hearts
of others. On one occasion, when he was visiting that part of his diocese
which lies among the lofty and bleak mountains of Faucigny, where it is
always winter, he heard that a poor cowherd had lost his life by falling
over a steep precipice while trying to save one of his herd. From this
incident he drew a marvellous lesson upon the care which a Bishop ought to
take of the flock entrusted to his charge by God, showing that he ought to
be ready to sacrifice even life itself for its salvation. He thus relates
the incident, and gives his comments on it in one of his letters.

"During the past few days I have seen mountains, terrible in their
grandeur, covered with ice ten or twelve inches thick; and the inhabitants
of the neighbouring valleys told me that a herdsman going out to try and
recover a cow which had strayed away fell over a precipice from a height of
thirty feet, and was found frozen to death at the bottom. Oh, God! I cried,
and was the ardour of this poor herdsman in his search for the beast that
had strayed, so burning that even the cold of those frozen heights could
not chill it? Why, then, am I so slothful and lax in the quest after my
wandering sheep? This thought filled my heart with grief, yet in no wise
melted its frozen surface. I saw in this region many wonderful sights. The
valleys were full of happy homesteads, the mountains coated with ice and
snow. Like the fertile and smiling valleys, the village mothers play their
homely part, while a Bishop, raised to such a lofty eminence in the Church
of God, remains ice-bound as the mountains. Ah! will there never rise a sun
with rays powerful enough to melt this ice which freezes me!" What zeal for
souls, what humility, what holy fervour breathe in these words!


"Being a Bishop," he used to say to me, "you are at the same time a
superintendent, sentinel, and overseer in the House of God, for this is
what the word Bishop means. It is then your part to watch over and guard
your whole diocese, making continual supplications, crying aloud day and
night like a watchman on the walls, as the prophet bids you do, knowing
that you have to render an account to the great Father of the family of all
the souls committed to your care.

"But especially you ought to watch over two classes of people who are the
heads of all the others, namely, the Parish Priests and the fathers of
families, for they are the source of most of the good and of most of the
evil which is to be found in parishes or households.

"From the instruction and good example given by Parish Priests, who are the
shepherds of the flock, proceeds all the advance of that flock in knowledge
and virtue. They are like the rods of which Jacob made use to give the
colours he wanted to the fleeces of the lambs. Teaching does much, but
example does incomparably more. It is the same with fathers and mothers of
families: on their words, but still more on their conduct, depends all the
welfare of their households.

"As Bishop you are the master-builder, the superintendent. It is your duty
then to watch over the leaders of your flock and over those who, like Saul,
are a head taller than the rest. Through them healing and blessing flows
down upon others, even as Aaron's ointment descended from his head to the
very hem of his garment.

"This is why you ought continually to exhort and instruct, in season and
out of season, for you are the Parish Priest of all Parish Priests, and the
Father of all Fathers of families."


On one occasion I was complaining to him of the difficulties which I met
with in the discharge; of my episcopal duties. He replied that on entering
the service of God we must prepare ourselves for temptation, since no one
could follow Jesus Christ or be of the number of His true disciples except
by bearing His Cross, nor could anyone enter Heaven except by the path and
through the gate of suffering. "Remember," he said, "that our first father
even in the state of innocence was put into the earthly Paradise to work in
it and to keep it. Do you imagine that he was banished from it in order to
do nothing? Consider how God condemned him and all his posterity to labour,
and to till an ungrateful earth which produced of itself nothing but
thorns and thistles. There is much more toil and difficulty in weeding and
cultivating souls than any earthly soil, rough, stony, and barren though
it may be. The art of arts is the direction of souls, it is of no use to
undertake it unless we have made up our minds to innumerable labours and

"The Son of God being a sign of contradiction, can we wonder if His work is
exposed to the same; and if He had so much difficulty in winning souls,
is it likely that his coadjutors and those who labour with Him will have

Then fearing to depress me by the enumeration of so many difficulties, he
went on to cheer me with the example of the Prince of Pastors, the Bishop
of our souls, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who preferred shame and
toil to joy, that He might further the work of oar salvation.

He added that of the Apostles, and other Pastors of the Church, reminding
me that if we think much of the honour of being their successors we
must, with the inheritance, accept its burdens, nor shelter ourselves
by, in legal phrase, _disclaiming liability for debts beyond the assets_
inherited. Otherwise, he said, we should be like that kinsman of Ruth who
wished to have the inheritance of the first husband, but not to marry the
widow and raise up to him an heir.

He generally wound up his remarks with some reminder of that love which
makes all that is bitter to be sweet: sometimes quoting to me those words
of St. Augustine, "Where we love, there is no labour, or if there is any we
love the labour itself, for he who labours in loving, loves to labour for
the beloved object."


A Priest once complained to Blessed Francis of the thorns besetting his
path in life, of the difficulties of his holy calling, of the anxieties
inseparable from it, but chiefly of the intractableness of stiff-necked
Christians, who refuse to submit to the easy yoke of Jesus Christ, and to
do what their duty requires. The Bishop replied that their obstinacy was
not so much to be wondered at as the weakness of their Pastors who were so
easily discouraged and impatient, just because they saw that the seed sown
by their labours did not forthwith produce the plentiful harvest they

"The peasant is not blamed for failing to reap an abundant harvest, but
only for not carefully cultivating his field, and for not doing all that
is necessary to make his land productive. Discouragement is a mark of
excessive love of self and of zeal unaccompanied by knowledge.

"The best lesson for those who have the care of souls, is that which the
Apostle gives to all in the person of one: _Preach the word: be instant
in season and out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and

"In this text the word _patience_ is the key to the whole mystery, for
patience has its perfect work when it is accompanied by charity, which is
patient, kind, and is the virtue by which we possess our souls in peace."

The charge of souls means having to bear with the weak, for the strong
are able to go on by themselves in their progress towards what is good.
Our holy Bishop explained this by two beautiful similitudes: "The plumage
of birds is heavy, and yet without this load they could neither raise
themselves from the ground nor hover in the air. The burden borne by holy
souls is like a load of cinnamon, which, by its perfume invigorates him who
carries it. So souls which are weak serve to make their Pastors, who bear
the burden of them, rise on wings towards Heaven, and on earth to run in
the way of God's commandments."

The other comparison Is this: "Notice," he said, "a shepherd driving a
flock of sheep: if one of them breaks a leg the shepherd at once takes
it on his shoulders to carry it back to the fold, and this single one
is certainly a heavier load than all the rest together, who go along of
themselves. In like manner souls which of themselves advance in the way
of God afford little occasion for their Pastors to exercise care and
vigilance. It is of the faulty and intractable they have chiefly to think,
St. Bernard says that the care of souls is not a care of the strong, but of
the infirm, for if any one helps thee more than he is helped by thee, know
that thou art not his father but his equal."

Even the prophets complain of men of obstinate and rebellious hearts. To
work among them is to go down to the sea in ships and to do our business in
great waters, for these waters are God's people with whom we have to deal.

[Footnote 1: 2 Tim. iv. 2.]


By rights, the more learned a man becomes the more pious should he be. This
does not, however, always happen, and if we must choose between the two,
there is no doubt that it is better to be uneducated but pious, rather than
to be learned without being religious-minded.

Blessed Francis remarked one day when we were speaking of a Parish Priest
whose holy life was highly praised, but with whose defects as a teacher
great fault was found: "It is quite true that knowledge and piety are, as
it were, the two eyes of a Priest; still, as a man can, by dispensation,
receive Holy Orders even though he has only one eye, so also it is quite
possible for a Parish Priest to be a most faithful servant in his ministry
by simply leading a zealous, exemplary, and well-regulated life. The
function of teaching may be discharged by others, who, as St. Paul says,
are instructors but not fathers.[1] But no one can be a pattern to others
except by giving good example, and this cannot be done by proxy."

Besides, the Gospel tells us that we are to pluck out the eye which
offends. It is better to enter heaven with one eye, than to be cast into
hell-fire with two.[2] "There is, indeed," he continued, "a degree of
ignorance so gross as to be inexcusable and to render him who is plunged
into it in very truth a blind leader of the blind. When, however, a man is
in good repute for his piety he surely has within him that true light which
leads him to Jesus Christ and enables him to show light to others. It is as
though he said to them, like Gideon, _Do as I do_, or with St. Paul, _Be ye
followers of me, as I also am of Christ_.[3] Such a one does not walk in
darkness and those who follow him are sure to reach the haven. Though he
has not talents of learning and erudition such as would make him shine in
the pulpit, yet he has enough if he can, as the Apostle says, _exhort in
sound doctrine and convince the gainsayers_.[4] Remark," he added, "how
God taught Balaam by the mouth of his ass." Thus, his charity dexterously
covered the defects of his neighbour, and by this lesson he taught us to
value an ounce of piety more than many pounds of empty learning.

[Footnote 1: 1 Cor. iv. 15.]
[Footnote 2: Matt. xviii. 9.]
[Footnote 3: 1 Cor. iv. 16.]
[Footnote 4: Tit. i. 9.]


When I was consulting him once as to whether or not I should follow the
bent of my own inclination in the matter of retiring into a private and
solitary life, he, wishing to ascertain by what spirit I was led, answered
me in the beautiful words of St. Augustine: _Otium sanctum diligit charitas
veritatis, et negotium justum suscipit veritas charitatis_.[1] Charity, the
holy love of eternal truth, draws us into retirement, that we may in that
calm leisure contemplate things divine; but when our hearts are filled with
true charity we are none the less urged to undertake good works in order to
advance the glory of God by serving our neighbour.

Although he esteemed Mary's part--called in the Gospel "the better
part"--much more highly than Martha's, yet it was his opinion that
Martha's, undertaken purely for the love of God, was more suitable to
this present life, and that Mary's had more in common with that of a
blessed eternity. He only made an exception as regards some special and
extraordinary vocations, some irresistible and most powerful attractions,
acting upon the soul, and in the case of those who do not possess the
talents requisite for serving as Martha served, and have only those
suitable for a purely contemplative life. Also those who, having expended,
all their physical strength in the service of the Church, withdraw into
solitude towards the close of their life, there to prepare for that last
journey which is ordained for all flesh.

For this reason he repulsed and silenced me--not indeed harshly, for his
incomparable sweetness was incompatible with harshness--but firmly and
decidedly whenever I spoke to him of quitting my post and of resigning the
helm into the hand of some more skilful pilot. He called my desire to do so
a temptation, and in the end closed the discussion so peremptorily that,
during his lifetime, I never ventured to revive it with anyone.

He dealt in almost exactly the same manner with that virtuous soul[2] the
corner-stone of the spiritual edifice of the Congregation of the Visitation
which he founded, for he kept her in the world for more than seven years,
bringing up and educating the children whom God had given her and affording
spiritual help to her father and father-in-law. He kept her back, I say,
for this long period, before permitting her to retire into the solitude of
the cloister; so exact was he in himself following, and in leading those
who were under his direction to follow, the holy light of faith rather than
the false and lurid glimmers of their natural inclinations.

On a previous occasion a certain Bishop whom I knew well asked him whether
in his opinion it would be allowable for him to give up his Bishopric with
its heavy burdens and retire into private life, bringing forward as an
example St. Gregory of Nazianzen, surnamed the Theologian, the oracle of
his time, who gave up the charge of three Bishoprics, Sozima, Nazianzen,
and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, that he might go and end his days
In rural life, on his paternal estate of Arianzen.

Our Blessed Father replied that we must presume that these great Saints
never did anything without being moved to do it by the Spirit of God, and
that we must not judge of their actions by outward appearances. He added
that St. Gregory in quitting Constantinople was only yielding to pressure
and violence, as is proved by the manner in which he said his last Mass in
public, and which brought tears into the eyes of all who heard him.

This same Bishop replying that the greatness of his own charge terrified
him, and that he was overpowered by the thought of having to answer for
so many souls: "Alas!" said Blessed Francis, "what would you say, or do,
if you had such a burden as mine on your shoulders? And yet that must not
lessen my confidence in the mercy of God."

The Bishop still complaining and declaring that he was like a candle which
consumes itself in order to give light to others, and that he was so much
taken up with the service of his neighbour that he had scarcely any leisure
to think of himself and to look after the welfare of his own soul, our
Blessed Father replied: "Well, considering that the eternal welfare of your
neighbour is a part, and so large a part, of your own, are you not securing
the latter by attending to the former? And how, indeed, could you possibly
work out your own salvation except by furthering that of others, seeing
that you have been called to do so precisely in this manner?"

The Bishop still objecting and saying that he was like a whetstone which is
worn out by the mere sharpening of blades, and that while trying to lead
others to holiness he ran the risk of losing his own soul, our Holy Prelate
rejoined: "Read the history of the Church and the lives of the Saints,
and you will find more Saints among Bishops than in any other Order or
avocation, there being no other position in the Church of God which
furnishes such abundant means of sanctification and perfection. For
remember that the best means of making progress in perfection is the
teaching others both by word and example. Bishops are by their very office
compelled to do this and to strive with all their heart and soul to be a
pattern and model to their flocks. The whole life of a Christian on earth
is a warfare, and should be one unceasing progress towards the goal of
perfection. Were you to do as you propose it would be in a manner to look
behind you, and to imitate the children of Ephraim, who turned back when
they should have faced the enemy. You were going on so well, who is it who
is holding you back? Stay in the ship in which God has placed you to make
the voyage of life; the passage is so short that it is not worth while
changing the boat. For, indeed, if you feel giddy in a large vessel, how
much more so will you in a slight skiff tossed by every motion of the
waves! A lower condition of life, though less busy and apparently more
tranquil, is none the less equally subject to temptation."

This reasoning so convinced the Bishop[3] that he remained faithful to his
post in the army of Holy Church.

[Footnote 1: De Civit. Dei. Lib. 19. cap 19.]
[Footnote 2: St. Jane Frances de Chantal.]
[Footnote 3: This Bishop was evidently M. Camus himself. [Ed.]]


So light-hearted and gay was he, so truly did his happy face express the
serenity and peace of his soul that it was almost impossible to remain for
any time in his company without catching something of this joyous spirit.

I feel sure that only those of dull and gloomy temperament can take
exception to what I am going to relate in order to illustrate our Blessed
Father's delightful gift of pleasantry in conversation.

On one occasion when I was paying a visit to him at Annecy two young girls,
sisters, and both most virtuous and most devout, were professed in one of
the convents, he performing the ceremony, and I, by his desire, giving
the exhortation. While preaching, although I said nothing to my mind very
heart-stirring, I noticed that a venerable Priest who was present was so
much affected as to attract the attention of everyone. After the ceremony,
when we were breakfasting with the holy Bishop, the Priest being also at
table, I asked Blessed Francis what had been the cause of such emotion. He
replied that it was not to be wondered at seeing that this good Priest had
lost his aureola, and had been reduced from the high rank of a martyr to
the lowly one of a Confessor!

He went on to explain that the Priest had been married, but that on the
death of his wife, who was a most saintly woman, he had become a Priest,
and that all the children of that happy marriage had been so piously
brought up that every one of them had devoted himself or herself to the
service of the Altar, the young girls just professed being of the number.

The tears shed by the Priest were therefore of joy, not of sorrow, for he
saw his most ardent desire fulfilled, and that his daughters were now the
Brides of the Lamb. "But," I cried, "what did you mean by saying that a man
married to such a wife as that was a Martyr? That may be the case when a
man has a bad wife, but it cannot be true in his case."

Our Blessed Father's manner changed at once from gaiety to seriousness.
"Take care," he said to me in a low voice, "that the same thing does not
happen to you; I will tell you how, by-and-by, in private."

When we were alone afterwards I reminded him of his promise. "Take care,"
he said again with some severity of aspect, "lest if you yield to the
temptation which is now assailing you something worse does not befall you."
He was alluding to my desire to give up the burden of my Bishopric and to
retire into more private life.

"Your wife," he went on to say, meaning the Church, whose ring when he
consecrated me he had put on my finger, "is far more holy, far more able
to make you holy than was that good man's faithful wife, whose memory is
blessed. It is true that the many spiritual children whom she lays in your
arms are a cause of so much anxiety that your whole life is a species
of martyrdom, but remember that in this most bitter bitterness you will
find peace for your soul, the peace of God which is beyond all thought
or imagination. If you quit your place in order to seek repose, possibly
God will permit your pretended tranquillity to be disturbed by as many
vexations as the good brother Leone's, who, amid all his household cares in
the monastery, was often visited by heavenly consolations. Of these he was
deprived when, by permission extorted from his Superior, he had retired
into his cell in order, as he said, to give himself up more absolutely to
contemplation. Know (Oh! how deeply these words are engraven on my memory)
that God hates the peace of those whom He had destined for war.

"He is the God of armies and of battles, as well as of peace, and he
compares the Sulamite, the peaceful soul, to an army drawn up in battle
array and in that formation terrible to its enemies." I may add that our
Blessed Father's predictions were perfectly verified, and after his death
when the very things he had spoken of happened to me I remembered his words
with tears.

As I write I call to mind another instance of his delightful manner which
you will like to hear.

Young as I was when consecrated a Bishop, it was his desire that I should
discharge all the duties of my holy office without leaving out any single
one of them, although I was inclined to make one exception, that of hearing
confessions. I considered myself too young for this most responsible work,
and wanting in that prudence and wisdom which are born of experience.

Our Blessed Father, however, thought differently in the matter, and I,
holding this judgment in so much higher esteem than my own, gave way, bent
my neck under the yokes and took my place in the confessional. There I
was besieged by penitents, who scarcely allowed me any time for rest or

One day, worn out with this labour, I wrote to St. Francis, saying, among
other things, that intending to make a Confessor he had really made a

In answering my letter he said that he knew well that the vehemence of
my spirit suffered the pangs of a woman in travail, but then I must take
courage and remember that it is written, _a woman when she is in labour
hath sorrow because her hour is come; but when she hath brought forth the
child she remembereth no more the anguish for joy that a man is born into
the world_.[1]

[Footnote 1: John xvi. 21.]


To a Priest whom I know well, and whom our Blessed Father loved much in Our
Lord, he gave most excellent advice, and in a very kindly manner, conveyed
it to him by means of an ingenious artifice.

The Priest was young, and owing to his extreme youth, although he was a
Parish Priest, he dreaded saying Mass often, contenting himself with doing
so on Sundays and holidays.

Our Blessed Father, wishing to lead him to say his Mass every day, devised
this plan. He presented him with a little box covered with crimson satin,
embroidered in gold and silver and studded with pearls and garnets. Before
he actually put it into his hands, however, he said to him, "I have a
favour to ask of you which I am sure you will not refuse me, since it only
concerns the glory of God, which I know you have so much at heart." "I am
at your command," replied the Priest. "Oh, no," said the Bishop, "I am not
speaking to you as one who commands, but as one who requests, and I make
this request in the name and for the love of God, which is our common
watchword." After that, what could the Priest possibly refuse him? His
silence testified his readiness to obey, better than any words could have

Blessed Francis then opening the box showed him that it was quite full of
unconsecrated hosts, and said, "You are a Priest, God has called you to
that vocation, and also to the Pastoral Office in His Church. Would it be
the right thing if an artisan, a magistrate, or a doctor only worked at his
profession one or two days in the week? You have the power to say Holy Mass
every day. Why do you not avail yourself of it?

"Consider that the action of saying Mass is the loftiest, the most august,
of all the functions of religion, the one which renders more glory to God
and more solace to the living and the dead than any other.

"I conjure you, then, by the glory of Him in whom we live and move and have
our being, to approach the Altar every day, and never, except under extreme
necessity, to fail to do so.

"There is nothing, thank God, to prevent your doing this. I know your
soul as well as a soul can be known, and of this you are yourself quite
aware, you who have so frankly unfolded to me the inmost recesses of
your conscience. Far from seeing any impediment, I see that everything
invites you to do what I ask, and that you may so use the daily and
supersubstantial Bread I make you this present, entreating you not to
forget at the holy Altar him who makes you this prayer on the part of God

The young Priest was somewhat surprised, and without attempting to evade
the implied rebuke contented himself with submitting to the judgment of the
holy Bishop his secret unworthiness, his youth, his unmortified passions,
his fear of misusing so divine a mystery by not living as they should live
who each day offer it up.

"All this excusing yourself, replied our Blessed Father, is only so much
self-accusing as would appear if I chose to examine your reasons in detail
and weigh them in the scales of the sanctuary. But without entering into
any discussion of them let it suffice that you refer the matter to my
judgment. I tell you then, and in this I think that I have the Spirit of
God, that all the reasons which you bring forward to dispense yourself
from so profitable an exercise of piety are really those which oblige you
to practise it. This holy exercise will ripen your youth, moderate your
passions, weaken your temptations, strengthen your weakness, illuminate
your path, and the very act of practising it will teach you to do so with
greater perfection. Moreover, if the sense of your unworthiness would make
you abstain from it out of humility, as happened to St. Bonaventure, and if
your own unfitness makes the custom of daily celebrating productive in your
soul of less fruit than it should, consider that you are a public person,
and that your flock and your Church have need of your daily Mass. More than
that, you ought to be stimulated and spurred on by the thought that every
day on which you refrain from celebrating you deprive the exterior glory
of God of increase, the Angels of their delight, and the Blessed of a most
special happiness."

The young Priest deferred to this counsel, saying "_Fiat, fiat_," and from
that time for a space of thirty years has never failed to say Mass daily,
even when on long journeys through France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and in
heretical countries. He never failed, I repeat, even under conditions which
seemed to make the saying of Mass impossible.

Such power have remonstrances when tempered with kindness and prudence.

[Footnote 1: Possibly M. Camus himself. [Ed.]]


He was told that I was very lengthy in my preparation for saying Holy Mass,
and that this was a cause of inconvenience to many who either wished to
be present at it or to speak to me afterwards. I was accustomed, by his
orders, to say daily Mass at a fixed hour, and not in the private chapel
of the Bishop's house, unless I happened to be ill, but in a large chapel
adjoining the Cathedral Church, where synods, ordinations, and similar
pastoral functions were held. The bell rang for this Mass always at a few
minutes before the appointed hour, but those who knew the length of my
preparation in the sacristy did not hurry to come to it, and those who did
not know lost patience, and in winter time often got chilled to the bone.

Our Blessed Father, wishing to correct this fault in me, waited quietly
till the right moment came for doing so. He was paying me one of his annual
visits at Belley, when it chanced that one morning he was detained very
late in his room writing some letters which he had to send off without loss
of time. When eleven o'clock drew near, his servants, knowing that he never
failed to say Mass unless hindered by illness or some real impediment, came
to remind him that he had not yet done so.

The Altar in the private Chapel had been prepared for him. He came out of
his room, wearing as usual his rochet and mosetta, and after saluting those
who had come to see him and to hear his Mass, said a short prayer at the
foot of the Altar, then vested and celebrated the holy sacrifice. Mass
ended, he knelt down again, and, after another short prayer, joined us with
a face of angelic serenity. Having greeted each of us affectionately, he
entered into conversation with us, until we were called, as we soon were,
to table. I, who watched his actions most closely and ever found them
regular and harmonious as a stave of music, was amazed at the brevity of
this preparation and thanksgiving. In the evening, therefore, when we were
alone together, I said, using the filial privilege which I knew was mine,
"Father, it seemed to me this morning that your preparation for Mass and
your thanksgiving were very hasty and short."

He turned suddenly, and, embracing me, exclaimed, "Oh, how delighted I am
that you are so straightforward in telling me home truths! For three or
four days I have been wanting to do the same thing to you, but did not know
how to begin! Now, tell me what do you say as to that lengthiness of yours
which inconveniences everybody? All complain, and quite openly, though
possibly these complaints have not yet reached your ears, so few dare speak
the truth to Bishops. Doubtless it is because no one loves you as I do that
I have been asked to speak about this. My commission is quite authentic,
though I do not show you the signatures. A little of your superfluity
handed over to me would do us both good, by making you go more quickly and,
me more slowly.

"Do you think," he continued, "that the people who are so anxious to assist
at your Mass have any sympathy with your long preparation before-hand in
the sacristy? Still less those who are waiting to speak to you after Mass,
with your interminable thanksgiving.

"Many of these people come from a distance, and have business engagements
in the town."

"But, Father," I said, "how ought we to make our preparation? Scripture
says, _Before prayer prepare thy soul, and be not as a man that tempteth
God_.[1] How much more, then, must we prepare with all care for the
stupendous act of celebrating Mass, before which, in the words of the
Preface, the powers of Heaven tremble? How can one play on a lute without
tuning it?" "Why do you not make this preparation earlier, in your morning
exercise, which I know, or at least I think, you never neglect?" "I rise at
four o'clock in the summer, sometimes sooner," I replied, "and I do not
go to the Altar till about nine or ten o'clock." "And do you suppose," he
returned, "that the interval from four to nine is very great to Him, in
_Whose sight a thousand years are as yesterday?_"[2]

This passage, so well applied, was like a sudden illumination to me. "And
what about the thanksgiving?" I said. "Wait till your evening exercise to
make it," he answered; "you make your examination of conscience, surely
so great an act will have its weight; and is not thanksgiving one of the
points of self-examination? Both these acts can be made more at leisure and
more calmly in the morning and evening: no one will be inconvenienced by
them, and they will interfere with none of your ordinary duties." "But,"
I objected, "will it not be a cause of disedification to others to see me
so quick over things? _God should not be adored hurriedly_." "We may hurry
as much as we like," he replied; "God goes faster than we do. He is as the
lightning which comes forth from the east and the next moment flashes in
the west. All things are present to Him; with Him there is neither past nor
future. How can we escape from His spirit?" I acquiesced, and since then
all has gone well in this matter.

[Footnote 1: Eccle. xviii. 23.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm lxxxix. 4.]


Owing to the fact that the See of Belley had been vacant for four years,
a dispensation was obtained from the Bishop enabling me, at the age of
twenty-five, to be consecrated Bishop, and at the same time to be put in
possession of that See to which the King, Henry IV., had already appointed

Blessed Francis Himself consecrated me, in my own Cathedral Church of
Belley, August 30th, 1609.

After a while scruples began to disturb my mind on account of this
consecration, seemingly so premature. I had, as it were, been made a
captain when I had scarcely enlisted as a soldier. I carried my troubles to
the director of my conscience, this Blessed Father who consoled and cheered
me by suggesting many excellent reasons for this unusual state of things.
The necessities of the diocese, the testimony to my character of so many
persons of dignity and piety, the judgment of Henry the Great, whose memory
he held in high honour, and, last of all, and above all, the command of His
Holiness. He concluded by urging me not to look back, but rather to stretch
forward to the things which were before me, following the advice of St.

"You have come to the vineyard," he went on to say, "in the first hour of
your day. Beware lest you labour there so slothfully, that those who enter
at the eleventh hour outstrip you both in the work and in reward."

One day I said jestingly to him: "Father, virtuous and exemplary as you are
considered to be, you have committed one fault in your life, that of having
consecrated me too early."

He answered me with a laugh which opened a heaven of joy to me. "It is
certainly true," he said, "that I have committed that sin, but I am much
afraid God will never forgive me for it, for up to the present moment I
have never been able to repent of it. I conjure you by the bowels of our
common Master to live in such a manner that you may never give me cause for
regret in this matter and rather, often to stir up in yourself the grace
which was bestowed upon you from on high by the imposition of my hands. I
have, you must know, been called to the consecration of other Bishops, but
only as assistant. I have never consecrated any one but you: you are my
only one, my apprenticeship work.

"Take courage. God will help us.

"_He is our light and our salvation, whom shall we fear? He is the
Protector of our life, of whom shall we be afraid?_"


Although his soul was one of the strongest and most well-balanced possible,
yet it was capable of the tenderest and most compassionate feelings for the
sorrows of others. He did not repine over the miseries and infirmities of
human nature, he only desired that all souls should be strengthened by

To a lady who was heart-broken at the death of a sister whom she
passionately loved, he wrote:

"I will not say to you, do not weep, for, on the contrary, it is just
and reasonable that you should weep a little--but only a little--my dear
daughter, as a proof of the sincere affection which you bore her, following
the example of our dear Master, who shed a few tears over His friend
Lazarus, but not many, as do those whose thoughts, being bounded by the
moments of this miserable life, forget that we, too, are on our way to
Eternity, in which if we live well in this life we shall be reunited to our
beloved dead, nor ever be parted from them again. We cannot prevent our
poor hearts from being affected by the changes of this life, and by the
loss of those who have been our pleasant companions in it. Still never must
we be false to our solemn promise to unite our will inseparably to the Will
of God."

Again, let me remind you how tenderly he expresses himself on the sorrowful
occasions of the death of his dearest relatives and friends. "Indeed," he
says, "at times like these I myself weep much. Then my heart, hard as a
stone with regard to heavenly things, breaks and pours forth rivers of
tears. But God be praised! They are always gentle tears, and, speaking to
you as to my own dear daughter, I never shed them without a loving grateful
thought of the providence of God. For, since our Saviour loved death and
gave His death to be the object of our love, I cannot feel any bitterness,
or grudge against it, whether it be that of my sisters or of anyone else,
provided it be in union with the holy death of my Saviour."

And in another place he says:

"I must say just one word in confidence to you. There is not a man living
who has a heart more tender and more open to friendship than mine, or who
feels more keenly than I do the pain of separation from those I love;
nevertheless. I hold so cheap this poor earthly life which we lead that I
never turn back to God with a more ardent affection than when He has dealt
me some blow of the kind or permitted one to be dealt me."


After I had preached several Advents and Lents in various towns of my
diocese of Belley, he thought it well that I should do so in my own native
city, Paris.

Well knowing, as he did, the various views and judgments of the great world
which rules there, he wished to teach me to care very little what people
said about me, and he impressed the lesson upon me by relating to me the
following story of an aged Priest and the college clock.

A good Father being incapacitated by infirmities even more than by age from
fulfilling the duty of teaching binding on his Order, and yet being anxious
to have some little useful employment, was entrusted by his Superior with
the winding and regulating the college clock.

Very soon, however, he came to complain of the difficulty and almost
impossibility of his work; not, he said, that it was at all beyond his
strength, but that it was quite beyond him to satisfy everyone. When the
clock was a little slow, he said, the young men who had difficult and
troublesome work to do indoors, complained, declaring that the town clocks
were much faster, and to please them he would put it on a little. As soon
as this was done complaints burst forth from those whose work lay outside
the college, in visiting the sick and prisoners, or providing for the needs
of the household in the city. They came back declaring that the town clocks
were much slower, and reproaching me for having put theirs on.

The Superior settled the matter by telling the good Father to let the
clock take its own course, but always to use soft words to those who might
complain, and to assure each one of them that he would do his best to keep
the clock right if possible. "So let it be with you," concluded our Blessed
Father. "You are going to be exposed to the criticism of many; if you
attend to all that they say of you, your work, like Penelope's, will never
be done, but every day you will have to begin it over again.

"Even some of your friends will in perfect good faith give you suggestions
on matters which seem to them important, but which in reality are not so at

"One will tell you that you speak too fast, another that you gesticulate
too much, a third that you speak too slowly, and don't move enough--one
will want quotations, another will dislike them; one will prefer doctrinal,
another moral lessons; some one thing, some another.

"They will be like drones who do nothing but disturb the working bees, and
who, though they can sting, yet make no honey."

"Well! what is to be done in all this?"

"Why, you must always answer gently, promising to try and correct yourself
of your faults whatever they may be, for there is nothing which pleases
these counsellors so much as to see that their suggestions are accepted
as judicious, and, at least, worthy of consideration. In the meantime go
your own way, follow the best of your own character, pay no heed to such
criticisms, which are often contradictory one of the other.

"Keep God before your eyes, abandon yourself to the guidance of the spirit
of grace, and say often with the Apostle, 'If I yet pleased men I should
not be the servant of Christ,' who said of Himself that He was not of this
world. Neither, indeed, were His Apostles, for the friendship of the world
is enmity with God.

"It is no small matter for a steersman in the midst of a storm to keep
the rudder straight. Of little consequence ought it to be to us that we
are judged by men. God is our only true judge, and it is He Who sees the
secrets of our hearts, and all that is hidden in darkness."


Honour is like thyme which the pagans thought ought only to be burnt on the
Altar of Virtue. In ancient Rome the Temple of Honour could only be entered
through the Temple of Virtue.

The virtue of Blessed Francis de Sales was so generally recognized by
both Catholics and Protestants that he may be truly said to have been
universally reverenced.

A remarkable instance of this occurred at Grenoble, the chief town of
Dauphine, in the year in which he went there to preach during Advent and
Lent. Monsieur de Lesdigiueres, the King's Viceroy at Grenoble, and Marshal
of France, was not yet converted to the Catholic Faith. He, however,
received the Bishop with affectionate warmth, and paid him extraordinary
honours. He frequently invited him to his table, and often visited him
in his house, sometimes even being present at his sermons, for he really
valued the teaching of the holy Bishop, and thought most highly of his
virtue. The Protestants of Grenoble took fright at this, more particularly
because of the long, private interviews which took place between the
Magistrate and the holy Bishop.

Wherever he went the King's representative spoke of Blessed Francis in the
highest terms, and invariably made a point of giving him his title, Bishop
of Geneva. In short, he paid him such deference as excited universal

In vain did the Huguenot clergy storm and rage, in vain did they threaten
to excommunicate anyone having dealings with the Bishop. They could not
prevent the majority of their congregations from pressing every day to hear
the Saint's sermons, which created a great sensation amongst them.

The Huguenot preachers, far from gaining fresh adherents, saw their flock
steadily dwindling away.

At last, in despair, the Consistory determined to send a deputation to
remonstrate with M. de Lesdigiueres on the warm welcome he was giving the
holy Bishop, and on his own behaviour in scandalizing the whole Protestant
party by attending Blessed Francis' sermons.

The deputation, formed of the elders and most notable men of the sect,
reached the Marshal's house early in the morning, so that he was not even
dressed when their request for an interview was brought to him.

Being a man who would not be dictated to, he sent down word to the
Huguenots that if they came to visit him as friends, or to communicate any
matter of business to him, he would receive them gladly, but if they meant
to remonstrate with him, in the name of the Consistory or ministers, on the
politeness he was showing to the Bishop of Geneva, they might rest assured
that they would go out through the window faster than they had come in by
the door!

This message was enough. The deputation broke up at once; but with how many
lamentations over this unexpected reception, given by one whom they had
reckoned upon as the chief stay and prop of their sect.

Their next plan was to send one of the principal noblemen of the province,
a Protestant like themselves, upon the same errand as before. He, however,
fared no better than the deputation.

Tell those gentlemen (said M. de Lesdigiueres) that I am old enough to know
the rules of politeness.

Up to the age of thirty I was myself a Roman Catholic. I know how Roman
Catholics treat their Bishops, and with what respect these Bishops are
treated by Kings and Princes. They hold a rank altogether different from
that of our ministers, who, even the highest among them, are only Parish
Priests, since they themselves deny the very existence of the order of
Bishop, however good a foundation for it there may seem to be in the
teaching of Holy Scripture. As for me, my belief is that they will in the
end be sorry they have given up this distinction of rank. "Tell M. B. (he
was a minister of low birth, had formerly been M. de Lesdigiueres' servant,
and owed to him his actual position in the so-called Reformed Church of
Grenoble) that when I see among Huguenot ministers, sons and brothers of
sovereign Princes, as I do among Roman Catholic Bishops, Archbishops, and
Cardinals, I will perhaps change my mind as to how to treat them socially.

"As regards the Bishop of Geneva, I can only say that if I were in his
place and were, as he is, sovereign Prince of this city, I would see that I
was properly obeyed, and that my authority was duly recognised. I know what
are his rights and titles better than B ... or any of his colleagues can
possibly do; it is for me to give them a lesson on the subject, and for
them, if they are wise, to listen. It is not for young, uneducated men to
presume to show a man of my age and rank how to behave himself."

After this the Viceroy redoubled his attentions to the holy Bishop, to whom
he paid every honour in his power.

On the other hand, he himself received such good impressions of our
religion from what he saw of the Bishop that they greatly facilitated his
conversion, which took place after he had been promoted to the rank of

He died an excellent Catholic, and most happily.


On one occasion Blessed Francis was complaining to me of the shortness of
his memory. I tried to console him by reminding him that even if it were
true, there was no lack in him of judgment, for in that he always excelled.

In reply, he said that it was certainly unusual to find a good memory and
excellent judgment united, although the two qualities might be possessed
together by some in a moderate degree. He added that there were of course
exceptions to the rule, but such exceptions were mostly of rare and
extraordinary merit.

He gave as an instance one of his most intimate friends, the great Anthony
Favre, first President of Savoy, and one of the most celebrated lawyers of
his time, who united in his own person remarkable keenness of judgment with
a marvellous memory. "In truth," he went on to say, "these two qualities
are so different in their nature, that it is not difficult for one to push
the other out. One is the outcome of vivacity and alertness, the other is
not unfrequently characteristic of the slow and leaden-footed."

After some more conversation with me on this subject, in which I deplored
my want of judgment, he concluded with these words: "It is a common thing
for people to complain of their defective memory, and even of the malice
and worthlessness of their will, but nobody ever deplores his poverty of
spirit, i.e., of judgment. In spite of the Beatitude, everyone rejects such
a thought as a doing an injustice to themselves. Well, courage! advancing
years will bring you plenty of judgment: it is one of the fruits of
experience and old age.

"But as for memory, its failure is one of the undoubted defects of old
people. That is why I have little hope of the improvement of my own;
but provided I have enough to remember God that is all I want.[1] _I
remembered, O Lord, Thy judgments of old: and I was comforted._"

[Footnote 1: Psalm cxviii. 52.]


I esteemed him so highly, and not without reason, that all his ways
delighted me. Among others, I thought that I should like to imitate his
style of preaching. Can it be said that I chose a bad model or was wanting
in taste?

Do not, however, imagine for a moment that I have ever aimed at reproducing
his lofty and deep thoughts and teaching, the eloquent sweetness of his
language, the marvellous power which swayed the hearts of his audience. No,
I have always felt that to be beyond my powers, and I have only tried to
mould my action, gestures, and intonation after the pattern set by him.
Now, as it happened, that owing to his constitution and temperament his
speech was always slow and deliberate, not to say prosy, and my own quite
the opposite, I became so strangely changed that my dear people at Belley
(where the above incident occurred) almost failed to recognise me. They
thought a changeling had been foisted upon them in the place of their own
Bishop, whose vehement action and passionate words they dearly loved, even
though sometimes they had found his discourses hard to follow. In fact, I
had ceased to be myself; I was now nothing more than a wretched copy with
nothing in it really recalling the original.

Our Blessed Father heard of this, and being eager to apply a remedy chose
his opportunity, and one day, when we were talking about sermons, quietly
remarked that he was told I had taken it into my head to imitate the Bishop
of Geneva in my preaching. I replied that it was so, and asked if I had
chosen a bad model, and if he did not preach better than I did.

"Ah," he replied, "this is a chance for attacking his reputation! But, no,
he does not preach so badly, only the worst of it is that they tell me you
imitate him so badly that his style is not recognisable: that you have
spoiled the Bishop of Belley yet have not at all succeeded in reproducing
the Bishop of Geneva. You had better, like the artist who was forced to put
the name of his subject under every portrait he painted, give out that you
are only copying me." "Well, be it so," I replied, "in good time you will
see that little by little from being a pupil I have become a master, and in
the end my copies will be taken for originals."

"Jesting apart," he continued, "you are spoiling yourself, ruining your
preaching, and pulling down a splendid building to re-fashion it into one
which sins against the rules of nature and art. You must remember, too,
that if at your age, like a piece of cloth, you have taken a wrong fold, it
will not be easy to smooth it out."

"Ah! if manners could be changed, what would I not give for such as yours?
I do what I can to stir myself up, I do not spare the spur, but the more I
urge myself on, the less I advance. I have difficulty in getting my words
out, and still more in pronouncing them. I am heavier than a block, I can
neither excite my own emotions, nor those of others. You have more fire in
the tip of your fingers than I have in my whole body. Where you fly like
a bird, I crawl like a tortoise. And now they tell me that you, who are
naturally so rapid, so lively, so powerful in your preaching, are weighing
your words, counting your periods, drooping your wings, dragging yourself
on, and making your audience as tired as yourself. Is this the beautiful
Noemi of bygone days? the city of perfect loveliness, the joy of the whole

Why should I dwell more on his reproof? Sufficient to say that he cured me
of my error, and I returned to my former style of preaching, God grant that
it may be for His glory!


He highly approved of brevity in preaching, and used to say that the chief
fault of the preachers of the day was lengthiness.

I ventured to ask how that could be a fault, and how he could speak of
abundance as if it were famine?

He answered: "When the vine is thick in leaves it always bears less fruit,
multiplicity of words does not produce great results. You will find that a
powerful and spirited horse will always start off promptly, and as promptly
pull up. A poor post hack, on the contrary, will go on several paces after
his rider has reined him in. Why is that? Because he is weak. So it is
with the mind and intellect. He who is strong leaves off speaking when
he pleases, because he has great control over himself, and readiness of
judgment. A weak-minded man speaks much, but loses himself in his own
thoughts, nor thinks of finishing what he has to say. Look at all the
homilies and sermons of the ancient Fathers and observe how short they
were, yet how much more efficacious than our lengthy ones! Wise St.
Francis of Assisi, in his Rule, prescribes that the preachers of his Order
shall preach the Gospel with brevity, and gives an excellent reason:
'Remembering,' he says, 'that: _a short word shall the Lord make upon the
earth_.'[1] The more you say, the less your hearers will retain. The less
you say, the more they will profit. Believe me in this, for I speak from
experience. By overloading the memory of a hearer we destroy it, just as
lamps are put out when they are filled too full of oil, and plants are
spoilt by being too abundantly watered. When a discourse is too long, by
the time the end is reached, the middle is forgotten, and by the time the
middle is reached the beginning has been lost. Moderately good preachers
are accepted, provided they are brief, and the best become tiresome when
they are too lengthy. There is no more disagreeable quality in a preacher
than prolixity."

Our Blessed Father sometimes surprised me by saying that we ought to be
pleased if, when going up into the pulpit to preach, we saw before us a
small and scattered audience. "Thirty years of experience," he said, "have
made me speak thus: I have always seen greater results from the sermons
which I have preached to small congregations than from those which I have
delivered in crowded churches. An occurrence which I am going to relate
will justify what I say.

"When I was Provost, or rather Dean, of my church, my predecessor in this
diocese, sent me, in company with some other Priests, to instruct in the
Faith the inhabitants of the three bailiwicks of the Chablais, namely,
Thonon, Ternier, and Gaillard. The towns being full at that time of
Huguenots, we had no access to them, and could only say Mass and give
instruction in some scattered and rather distant chapels.

"One Sunday, when the weather was very bad, there were only seven persons
at my Mass, and these few suggested to some one to tell me that I ought
not to take the trouble of preaching after Mass, as it was the custom then
to do, the number of hearers being so small. I replied that neither did a
large audience encourage me, nor a scanty one discourage me; provided only
that I could edify one single person, that would be enough for me.

"I went up; therefore, into the pulpit, and I remember that the subject
of my sermon was praying to the Saints, I treated it very simply and
catechetically, not at all controversially, as you know that is neither my
style nor is the doing so to my taste. I said nothing pathetic, and put
nothing very forcibly, yet one of my small audience began to weep bitterly,
sobbing and giving vent to audible sighs. I thought that he was ill, and
begged him not to put any constraint upon himself, as I was quite ready to
break off my sermon, and to give him any help he needed. He replied that he
was perfectly well in body, and he begged me to go on speaking boldly, for
so I should be administering the needful healing to the wound.

"The sermon, which was very short, being ended, he hurried up to me, and
throwing himself at my feet cried out: 'Reverend sir, you have given me
life, you have saved my soul to-day. Oh, blessed the hour in which I came
here and listened to your words! This hour will be worth a whole eternity
to me.'

"And then, being asked to do so, he related openly before the little
congregation, that, having conferred with some ministers on this very same
subject of praying to the Saints, which they made out to be sheer idolatry,
he had decided on the following Thursday to return to their ranks (he was a
recent convert to Catholicism), and to abjure the Catholic religion. But,
he added, that the sermon which he had just heard had instructed him so
well, and had so fully dispersed all his doubts, that he took back with his
whole heart the promise he had given them, and vowed new obedience to the
Roman Church.

"I cannot tell you what an impression this great example, taking place in
so small a congregation, made throughout the country, or how docile and
responsive to the words of life and of truth it made all hearts. I could
allege other similar instances, some even more remarkable."

For myself I now prefer small congregations, and am never so well pleased
as when I see only a little group of people listening to my preaching.
Seneca once said to his friend Lucillus that they themselves formed a
theatre wide enough for the communication of their philosophy, and,
speaking of those who came to hear his teaching, he says: _Satis sunt
pauci, satis est alter, satis est unus. A few are enough--two are
enough--nay, one is enough._ Why should not a Christian Philosopher be
content with what was enough for this Stoic?

[Footnote 1: Rom. ix. 28.]


On the subject of preaching, Blessed Francis had very definite and weighty
thoughts. He considered that it was not sufficient for a preacher to teach
the ways of God to the unrighteous, and by converting the wicked, to build
up by his words the walls of Jerusalem, that is, of holy Church, while
making known to God's people the ways of divine providence. He wanted more
than this, and said that every sermon ought to have some special plan,
with always for its end the giving glory to God and the converting and
instructing of those who were to hear it. Sometimes this would be the
setting forth of a mystery, sometimes the clearing up of some point of
faith, sometimes the denouncing of a particular vice, sometimes the
endeavouring to plant some virtue in the hearts of the hearers.

"No one," he said, "can sufficiently lay to heart the importance of having
a definite aim in preaching; for want of it many carefully studied sermons
are without fruit. Some preachers are content to explain their text with
all the painstaking and mental effort that they can bring to bear upon the
subject. Others give themselves up to elaborate and exhaustive research
and excite the admiration of their hearers, either by their scientific
reasonings, their eloquence, the studied grace of their gestures, or
by their perfect diction. Others add to all this beautiful and useful
teaching, but so that it only slips in here and there, as it were, by
chance, and is not expressly dwelt upon. But when we have only one aim, and
when all our reasonings and all our movements tend towards it and gather
round it, as the radii of a circle round the unity of its centre, then the
impression made is infinitely more powerful. Such speaking has the force
of a mighty river which leaves its mark upon the hardest of the stones it
flows over.

"Drones visit every flower, yet gather no honey from any. The working
bee does otherwise: it settles down upon each flower just as long as is
necessary for it to suck in enough sweetness to make its one honeycomb. So
those who follow my method will preach profitable sermons, and will deserve
to be accounted faithful dispensers of the divine mysteries; prudent
administrators of the word of life and of eternal life."

When our Blessed Father heard a certain preacher praised up to the skies,
he asked in what virtues he excelled; whether in humility, mortification,
gentleness, courage, devotion or what? When told that he was said to preach
very well, he replied: "That is speaking, not acting: the former is far
easier than the latter. There are many who speak and yet act not, and who
destroy by their bad example what they build up with their tongue. A man
whose tongue is longer than his arm, is he not a monstrosity?"

On one occasion, of some one who had delighted all his hearers by a sermon
he had preached, it was said: "To-day he literally did wonders." The Saint
replied: "If he did that he must be one of those absolutely blameless men
of whom Scripture says 'they have not sought after gold, nor hoped for
treasures of gold and silver.'" Another time he was told that this same
preacher had on a particular day surpassed himself. "Ah!" he said, "what
new act of self-renunciation has he made? What injury has he borne? For it
is only after overcoming ourselves in this way that we surpass ourselves."

"Do you wish to know," he continued, "how I test the excellence and value
of a preacher? It is by assuring myself that those who have been listening
to him come away striking their breasts and saying: 'I will, do better';
not by their saying: 'Oh how well he spoke, what beautiful things he said!'
For to say beautiful things in fluent and well-chosen words shows indeed
the learning and eloquence of a man; but the conversion of sinners and
their departing from their evil ways is the sure sign that God has spoken
by the mouth of the preacher, that he possesses the true power of speech,
which is inspired by the science of the Saints, and that he proclaims
worthily in the name of Almighty God that perfect law which is the
salvation of souls.

"The true fruit of preaching is the destruction of sin and the
establishment of the kingdom of justice upon earth.[1] By this justice, of
which the prophet speaks, is meant justification and sanctification. For
this, God sends his preachers, as Jesus Christ sent His Apostles, that
they may bring forth fruit, and that this fruit may remain,[2] and by
consequence that they may labour for a meat which perishes not, but which
endures unto life everlasting."[3]

When I was in residence in my diocese I never failed to preach on every
possible day in Advent and Lent, besides doing so on all Sundays and
holidays. Some good people who set themselves up as judges in such matters,
full of worldly prudence said that I was making myself too common, and
bringing the holy function of preaching into contempt.

This came to the ears of our Blessed Father, and he, despising such poor
earthly wisdom, observed, that to blame a husbandman or vinedresser for
cultivating his land too well was really to praise him. Speaking to me on
the subject, and fearing that all that had been said might discourage me,
he related to me what follows: "I had," he said, the best father in the
world, but as he had spent a great part of his life at court and in the
camp, he knew the maxims that hold in those conditions of life far better
than he did the principles of holy living.

"While I was Provost," he continued, "I preached on all possible occasions,
whether in the Chablais, where I was busy for many years uprooting heresy,
or, on my return, in the Cathedral, in parish churches, and even in the
chapels of the most obscure Confraternities. While at Annecy I never
refused any invitation whencesoever it came to preach. One day my good
father took me aside and said to me: 'Provost, you preach too often. Even
on week days I am always hearing the bell ringing for sermons, and when I
ask who is preaching I invariably get the same answer: "The Provost, the
Provost." In my time, it was not so; sermons were rare, but then they
_were_ sermons! They were learned and well studied, more Greek and Latin
was quoted in one of them than in ten of yours; people were delighted and
edified, they crowded to hear them, just as they would have crowded to
gather up manna. Now, you make preaching so common that no one thinks much
of it, and you yourself are held in far less esteem.'

"You see my good father spoke according to his lights and quite sincerely.
You may be sure he was not wishing me ill, but he was guided by the maxims
of the world in which he had been brought up.

"Yet what folly in the sight of God are all the principles of human wisdom!
If we pleased men we should not be the servants of Jesus Christ, He
Himself, the model of all preachers, did not use all this circumspection,
neither did the Apostles who followed in His footsteps. _Preach the word:
be instant in season out of season._[4]

"Believe me, we can never preach enough, especially in this border-land of
heresy, heresy which is only kept alive by sermons, and which will never be
destroyed except by that very breath of God which is holy preaching.

"If you will take my advice, therefore, you will shut your eyes against the
counsels of your worldly-wise monitors and listen rather to St. Paul, who
says to you: _But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an
evangelist, fulfil thy ministry._[5]

"Moreover, when the Apostle continues, _Be sober_, he refers to temperance
in eating and drinking, not to sobriety or restraint in the discharge of
pastoral duties. Blessed is the pastor who shall be found watching and
feeding his flock! I tell you that the divine Master will set him over all
his goods. And when the Prince of Pastors shall come he will receive from
His hand a crown of glory which can never fade."

[Footnote 1: Dan. ix 24.]
[Footnote 2: John xv. 16.]
[Footnote 3: Id. vi. 27.]
[Footnote 4: 2 Tim. iv. 2, 3.]
[Footnote 5: 2 Tim. iv. 5.]


One day I was to preach at the Visitation Convent at Annecy, the first
established convent of the Order, and I knew that our Blessed Father, as
well as a great congregation, would be present. I had, to tell the truth,
taken extra pains in the consideration of my subject, and intended to do my
very best. I had chosen for text a passage in the Canticle of Canticles,
and this I turned and twisted into every possible form, applying it to the
Visitation vocation which I extolled far too extravagantly to please the
good Bishop.

When he and I were alone together afterwards, he told me that, though my
hearers had been delighted with me, and could not say enough in praise of
my sermon, there was one solitary exception, one individual who was not
pleased with it. On my expressing surprise and much curiosity to know whom
I could have hurt or distressed by my words, he answered quietly that I
saw the person now before me. I looked around--there was no one present
but himself. "Alas!" I cried, "this is indeed a wet blanket thrown upon
my success. I had rather have had your approbation than that of a whole
province! However, God be praised! I have fallen into the hands of a
surgeon who wounds only to heal.

"What more have you to say, for I know you do not intend to spare me?"

"I love you too much," he replied, "either to spare or to flatter you,
and had you loved our Sisters in the same way, you would not have wasted
words in puffing them up in place of edifying them, and in praising their
vocation, of which they have already quite a sufficiently high opinion.

"You would have dealt out to them more salutary doctrine, in proportion as
it would have been more humiliating. Always remember that the whole object
of preaching is to root out sin, and to plant justice in its stead."

On my replying to this that those whom I addressed were already delivered
from the hands of their enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, and
were serving God securely in holiness and justice, "Then," he said, "since
they are standing, you should teach them to take heed lest they fall, and
to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

"It is right, indeed, for you to encourage them to persevere in their holy
undertaking, but you must do so without exposing them to the danger of
presumption and vanity. Enough said; I know that for the future you will be
careful in this matter."

The next day he sent me to preach in a convent of Poor Clares, an Order
renowned for the exemplary life of its members and for their extraordinary
austerities. I took good care to avoid the rock on which I had struck
the day before, and against which he had warned me. There was as large a
congregation as before, but I confined myself to plain and simple language,
without a thought of studied rhetoric.

I did not praise the austerities of the good nuns, nor did I labour to
please any of my hearers, their edification was my sole object.

On our return to the house, our Blessed Father said, embracing me tenderly,
that though most of those present were dissatisfied, and compared my sermon
most unfavourably with that of the preceding day, yet, that he, on the
contrary, who had then found fault with me, was now perfectly contented and
pleased, and that he believed that God was pleased also. "As for your past
faults," he continued, "I give you a plenary indulgence for them all.

"If you continue to preach as you have just done, whatever the world may
say, you will be doing much service for the Master of the Vineyard, and
will become a fitting servant of His Testament."

One day I was preaching before him at Annecy in the church which he used
as his cathedral. He was surrounded by all his canons, who, with the whole
Chapter, attended him to the bench where he was in the habit of sitting to
hear sermons.

This particular one of mine pleased him as regarded its matter and
delivery, but I suffered an allusion to escape me referring to his own name
of Sales, and implying, or rather affirming, that he was the salt (_Sal
es_) with which the whole mass of the people was seasoned.

This praise was so distasteful to him that, on our return from the church,
he took me to task for it, in a tone and with a manner as severe as was
possible to his gentle nature. "You were going on so well," he said. "What
could have induced you to play these pranks? Do you know that you spoilt
your sermon by them? Truly, I am a fine sort of salt, fit only to be thrown
into the street and trampled under foot by the people. For certainly you
must have said what you did say in order to put me to shame--you have found
out the right way to do that--but, at least, spare your own friends."

I tried to excuse myself, alleging that what the Bishop of Saluces once
said to him had suddenly come into my heads and that, quite without
premeditation, the very same words escaped my lips, "But," he replied, "in
the pulpit such things must not escape our lips. I am quite aware that
this time they really did escape you, but you must not allow it to happen

I may here explain, for your benefit, what I meant by this reference to a
saying of the Bishop of Saluces. That holy prelate, who died in the odour
of sanctity, and who was a disciple of Sr. Philip Neri, was an intimate
friend of our Blessed Father's.

On one occasion, when the latter was passing through Saluces on his way
to the shrine of Our Lady of Montdeay, the good Bishop received him with
every mark of respect, and begged him to preach in his cathedral. After
the sermon, he said to him, "My Lord, truly _tu Sal es; at ego, neque sal,
neque lux_." That is to say, "You are a true salt (_Sal es_), and I am
neither salt nor light," alluding to the word Saluces (_Sal lux_), his

[Footnote 1: NOTE.--Another version says that it was St. Francis who
answered: "On the contrary, _tu sal et lux_." See "Vies de S. F. de Sales."
by his nephew, Charles Auguste de Sales and Hamon. Also the life of Blessed
Juvenal Ancina, the said Bishop of Saluces. [Ed.]]


The gentleness of his disposition made Blessed Francis averse to disputing,
either in private or public, in matters of religion. Rather, he loved to
hold informal and kindly conferences with any who had wandered from the
right way; and by this means he brought back countless souls into the
Catholic Church. His usual method of proceeding was this. He first of all
listened readily to all that his opponents had to say about their religion,
not showing any sign of weariness or contempt, however tired he might be
of the subject. By this means he sought to incline them to give him in his
turn some little attention. When, if only out of mere civility, he was
given in his turn an opportunity of speaking, he did not lose a moment of
the precious time, but at once took up the subject treated by the heretic,
or perhaps another which he considered more useful, and deduced from it
briefly, clearly, and very simply the truth of the Catholic belief, and
this without any air of contending, without a word which breathed of
controversy, but neither more nor less than as if dealing in a catechetical
instruction with an Article of the Faith.

If interrupted by outcries and contemptuous expressions, he bore the
annoyance with incredible patience, and, without showing himself disturbed
in the least, continued his discourse as soon as ever an opportunity was
given to him.

"You would never believe," he said, "how beautiful the truths of our holy
Faith appear to those who consider them calmly. We smother them when we
try to dress them up, and we hide them when we aim at rendering them too
conspicuous. Faith is an infused, not a natural, knowledge; it is not a
human science, but a divine light, by means of which we see things which,
in the natural order, art invisible to us. If we try to teach it as human
sciences are taught, by ocular demonstrations and by natural evidence, we
deceive ourselves; Faith is not to be found where human reason tries only
to support itself by the experience of the senses.

"All the external proofs which can be brought to bear upon our opponents
are weak, unless the Holy Spirit is at work in their soul's, teaching them
to recognise the ways of God. All that has to be done is to propose to
them simply the truths of our Faith. To propose these truths is to compel
men to accept them, unless, indeed, they resist the Holy Spirit, either
through dullness of understanding, or through uncircumcision of the heart.
The attaching over much importance to the light of natural reason is a
quenching of the Spirit of God. Faith is not an acquired, but an infused
virtue; it must be treated with accordingly, and in instructing heretics we
must beware of taking to ourselves any part of the glory which belongs to
God alone.

"One of the greatest misfortunes of heretics is that their ministers in
their discourses travesty our Faith, representing it as something quite
different from what it really is. For example, they pretend that we have
no regard for Holy Scripture; that we worship the Pope as God; that we
regard the Saints as divinities; that we hold the Blessed Virgin as being
more than Jesus Christ; that we pay divine worship to images and pictures;
that we believe souls in Purgatory to be suffering the selfsame agony and
despair as those in Hell; that we deprive the laity of participation in
the Blood of Jesus Christ; that we adore bread in the Eucharist; that we
despise the merits of Jesus Christ, attributing our salvation solely to the
merit of our good works; that auricular confession is mental torture; and
so on, endeavouring by calumnies of this sort to discredit our religion
and to render the very thought of it odious to those who are so thoroughly
misinformed as to its nature. When, on the contrary, they are made
acquainted with our real belief on any of these points, the scales fall
from their eyes, and they see that the fascination and cajolery of their
preachers has hidden from them the truth as to God's goodness and the
beauty of God's truth, and has put darkness before them in the place of

"It is true that at first they may shrug their shoulders, and laugh us to
scorn; but when they have left us, and, being alone, reflect a little on
what we have told them, you will see them flutter back like decoyed birds,
saying to us, 'We should like to hear you speak again about those things
which you brought before us the other day.' Then they fall, some on the
right hand, others on the left, and Truth, victorious on all sides, brings
them by different paths to know it as it really is."

He gave me many instances of conversions he had himself made in this manner
during his five years' mission in the Chablais.

He gave them to show how useful this mode of proceeding was, and how far
more helpful to souls than mere controversy can be.


Blessed Francis did not approve of controversial sermons,[1] "The Christian
pulpit," he used to say, "is a place for improving of morals, not for
wrangling about them, for instructing the faithful in the truth of their
belief, rather than for convincing of their error those who have separated
themselves from the Church. An experience of thirty years in the work of
evangelising makes me speak thus. We made some trial of the controversial
method, when God through us led back the Chablais to the Catholic Faith,
but when I attempted to throw my treating of controversial subjects in the
pulpit into the form of a discussion, it was never successful. In place
of reclaiming our separated brethren, this method scares them away; when
they see that we are of set purpose attacking them, they instantly put
themselves on their guard; when we bring the lamp too close to their eyes,
they start back from the light. Nor have I ever observed that any of my
fellow labourers in this work of the Lord were more successful in following
out this plan, of fencing, as I may more justly call it, even though
they engaged in it with the utmost enthusiasm, and in a place where the
congregation all sang hymns together, and each one in his turn acted the
preacher, each saying exactly what he liked, and no one taking any kind of
official lead among them.

"But, in truth, this fencing was what St. Paul calls beating the air.[2] I
do not mean that we must not prove Catholic truths, and refute the contrary
errors; for the weapons of the spiritual armoury and of the Word of God are
powerful to destroy all false teaching which rears itself up against the
truth, and to condemn disobedience to God; but we must not slash with our
words as desperate fencers do, but rather manage them dexterously, as does
a surgeon when using his lancet--he probes skilfully, so as to wound the
patient as little as possible."

And, indeed, Blessed Francis' way of dealing with this branch of theology,
bristling with thorns as it does at every point, was so sweet and pleasant
as to make it, as it were, blossom into roses. I could relate many
instances of the success of his preaching, without employing controversy,
in bringing back wanderers from the fold, equally with other sinners, into
the Church.

He accomplished this by simply stating great truths, and bringing them home
to his hearers. One of the most remarkable instances, perhaps, is that of
the Protestant lady, who hearing him preach on the Last Judgment at Paris
in the year 1619, having been attracted more by curiosity than by any good
motive to listen to the sermon, there received that first flash of light
which afterwards guided her into the bosom of the true Church, into which
later she was followed by all the members of her noble family, one that
has since given us many celebrated divines and preachers. This incident,
however, with many more of the same kind, is fully related in the life of
our Blessed Father. So successful was he with Protestants that Cardinal
du Perron used to say that if it were only a question of confounding the
heretics, he thought he had found out the secret, but to convert them he
felt obliged to send for the Bishop of Geneva.

[Footnote 1: Note.--It is more correct to say that St. Francis preferred
moral sermons to controversy.]
[Footnote 2: 1 Cor. ix. 26.]


He used to say that reason never deceives, but reasoning often does. When a
person went to him with some complaint, or about some troublesome business,
he would always listen most patiently and attentively to any reasons which
were put before him, and, being full of prudence and good judgment, he
could always discern between what had any bearing on the matter and what
was foreign to it. When, therefore, people began obstinately to defend
their opinions by reasons, which, plausible though they might appear,
really carried no weight sufficient to secure a judgment, he would
sometimes say very gently, "Yes, I know quite well that these are your
reasons, but do you know that all reasons are not reasonable?" Someone on
one occasion having retorted that he might as well assert that heat was not
warm, he replied seriously, "Reason and reasoning are two different things:
reasoning is only the path leading to reason." Thus he would endeavour to
bring the person who had strayed away from truth back to it. Truth and
reason can never be separated, because they are one and the same thing.


St. Charles Borromeo never read the Scriptures except on his knees, just
as if he were listening to God speaking on Mount Sinai in thunder and

Blessed Francis also would not allow the Bible to be treated with anything
but the most extreme reverence, whether in public speaking, in writing, or
in private reading.

He was especially averse to that habit which some preachers have of
plunging into the mystical meaning of a passage, whether allegorical or
figurative, before they have explained its literal sense. "To do this," he
said, "is to build the roof of a house before laying the foundation. Holy
Scripture must be treated with more reverence and more consistency--it is
not material to be cut according to our fancy, and made into ornamental
garments such as fashion suggests."


On one occasion I expressed my surprise to our Blessed Father that his
Serene Highness Charles Emanuel, Duke of Savoy, who was one of the most
excellent Princes and foremost politicians of his age, should never have
employed him in his affairs, especially in those which regarded France,
where they did not prosper.

As may be supposed, I explained the reason of my surprise, insisting that
his gentleness, patience, skill, and probity were certain to bring about
the desired result.

He listened in silence, and then answered with a seriousness and
earnestness which put me to shame, "You say too much, you exaggerate: you
imagine that others esteem me as you do, you who are always looking at me
through a magnifying glass. However, let us put that aside. As regards our
Prince, my feeling is very different from yours, for in this very matter I
consider that he shows the excellence of his judgment.

"I will tell you why I speak and think this. In the first place, I have
not all that skill and prudence in the management of affairs with which
you credit me. Is it likely I should have? The mere words, human prudence,
business, politics, terrify me. That is not all. To speak frankly, I know
nothing of the art of lying, dissimulating, or pretence, which latter is
the chief instrument and the mainspring of political manoeuvring; the art
of arts in all matters of human prudence and of civil administration.

"Not for all the provinces of Savoy, of France, nay, not for the whole
empire, would I connive at deceit. I deal with others frankly, in good
faith, and very simply; the words of my lips are the outcome of the
thoughts of my heart. I cannot carry two faces under one hood; I hate
duplicity with a mortal hatred, knowing that God holds the deceitful man in
abomination. There are very few who, knowing me, do not at least discern
this much of my character. They therefore judge very wisely that I am by no
means fit for an office in which you have to speak peace to your neighbour
whilst you are plotting mischief against him in your heart. Moreover, I
have always followed, as a heavenly, supreme, and divine maxim, those great
words of the Apostle: _No man being a soldier to God entangleth himself
with secular business that he may please Him to whom he hath engaged

[Footnote 1: Tim. ii, 4.]


St. Francis was truly like Aaron called to the pastoral charge by God
alone, without his having used artifices or other means to procure himself
such honour. This plainly appears from his life written by so many worthy

His Bishopric was, indeed, no sinecure, being a most onerous burden. He
says of it himself in one of his letters:

"The affairs of this diocese are not streams, they are torrents which
cannot be forded." Alluding to the words of the prophet: _And, it was a
torrent which I could not pass over_.[1]

Towards the close of his life, when Madame Christina of France, the King's
sister,[2] married His Serene Highness the Prince of Piedmont, heir to the
Duke of Savoy, she wished to have Blessed Francis in some official position
close to her person, and, to effect this, proposed to make him her Grand
Almoner. Certain prelates who had been themselves hoping to obtain this
office, seeing their design thus frustrated, murmured bitterly, bursting
forth into angry invectives against the Saint, as if by cabals, and
intrigue, according to the custom of the world, he had succeeded in gaining
the post for himself. St. Francis, however, was merely amused by what he
called the buzzing of flies, and wrote to one in whom he could confide:

"Her Highness and the Prince of Piedmont wish me to become the Princess's
Grand Almoner, but you will believe me readily enough, I am sure, when I
tell you that I neither, directly nor indirectly, have shown any wish to
obtain this office. No, truly, my dearest Mother, I have no ambition save
that of being able to employ the remainder of my days usefully in the
service and to the honour of our Lord. Indeed, I hold courts in sovereign
contempt, because they are centres of the power of this world, which I
abhor each day more and more--itself, its spirit, its maxims, and all its

[Footnote 1: Ezech. xlvii. 5.]
[Footnote 2: Louis XIII.]


Blessed Francis did not hold the opinion of many that the courts of Princes
are places the very atmosphere of which is so tainted as to infect all who
frequent them, and to be invariably prejudicial to the health and holiness
of the soul.

Those who describe a court in terms of this sort are usually very ignorant
on the subject. They speak of what they have never seen nor heard about
from competent witnesses. A soul which has received the grace of God, and
preserves it, can work out its salvation anywhere, nor is there any harmful
intercourse so disease-laden that it cannot be overcome by this heavenly
antidote, "David, and after him St. Louis," says our Holy Bishop, "in the
press of the perils, toils, and travails which they endured, as well in
peace as in war, did not cease to sing in truth: '_What have I in Heaven,
and, besides Thee, what do I desire upon earth?_'"[1]

"St. Bernard lost none of the ground which he desired to gain in this holy
love by passing much time in the courts and armies of great Princes where
he laboured to guide matters of state to the advancement of God's glory.
He changed his habitation, but he changed not his heart, nor did his
heart change its love, nor his love its object; in fine, to speak his own
language, changes were made round about him, but not in him.

"His employments were different, yet he was indifferent to all employment,
and different from them all, his soul not taking its colour from his
affairs and conversations, as the chameleon does from the places where it
is, but remaining ever wholly united to God, ever white in purity, ever red
with charity, and ever full of humility.

"I am not ignorant, Theotimus, of that wise man's counsel,

  He ever flies the Court and legal strife
  Who seeks to sow the seeds of holy life:
  Rarely do camps effect the soul's increase,
  Virtue and faith are daughters unto peace.

"And the Israelites had good reason to excuse themselves to the
Babylonians, who urged them to sing the sacred Canticles of Sion: _How
shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?_[2] But do not forget
that those poor people were not only among the Babylonians, but were also
their captives, and whoever is intent only on winning the favours of
princes, dignities, military honours, alas! he is lost, he cannot sing the
hymn of heavenly love. But he who is at Court, in the army, at the bar,
only because it is his duty, God helps him, and heavenly sweetness is an
_Epithem_ on his heart, to preserve him from the plague which rages round
about him.

"There are some kinds of fish, such as salmon, and the like, which, instead
of losing their flavour, become better and more agreeable to the taste when
they forsake the salt water of the sea for the sweet water of rivers.

"Roses smell sweeter when planted near garlic, and in like manner there are
souls which grow more fervent in places where libertinism and irreligion
seem to drag all virtue at their chariot wheels."[3]

Our Blessed Father's piety was of this sort, for, knowing that he who is
consecrated to God should not entangle himself in the intrigues of the
world.[4] he speaks thus to one in whom he confided: "I must confess that,
as regards business, especially that of a worldly nature, I feel myself
more than ever to be nothing but a poor priest, having, thank God, learnt
at court to be more simple and less worldly."

Truly, we may say here with the wise man: _Who is he and we will praise
him? for he hath done wonderful things in his life._[5]

[Footnote 1: Psalm lxxii. 25.]
[Footnote 2: Psalm cxxxvi. 4.]
[Footnote 3: _Love of God_. Book xii. c. 4.]
[Footnote 4: 2 Tim. ii. 4.]
[Footnote 5: Eccles. xxxi. 9.]


His sad time each year was the Carnival, those days of disorder and licence
which, like a torrent, carry away into excesses of one sort or another even
the staunchest and most fervent in their piety. He felt, indeed, like Job
of old, who offered sacrifices and prayers, and afflicted both body and
soul with fasts and mortifications, while his children were passing their
time in revellings and banquetings.

As our Blessed Father was all things to all men, and weak with the weak, so
he also burned with the scandalised; and who would not be scandalised to
see the Pagan festival of the Bacchanalia celebrated among Christians? For
this very reason, as we know, the name of God is blasphemed by many, and
the Catholic religion unjustly blamed, as if it permitted what it cannot
prevent, as if it commanded what it tolerates with reluctance, as if it
ordered what it detests and declaims against by the mouth of its preachers.
Perhaps you would like to hear the words in which our Blessed Father pours
forth his lamentations over this period of the year, so full of disorder
and confusion.

"I must tell you," he says, "that now I have come to my sorrowful time.
From the Epiphany even to Lent my heart is full of strange sensations.
Miserable and detestable as I am, I am weighed down with grief to see the
loss of so much devotion, I mean the falling off of so many souls. These
two last Sundays I have found our communions diminished by one-half. That
has grieved me very much, for even if those who made them do not give way
to sin, why, and for what, do they now omit them? For nothing at all--out
of mere vanity, it is that which grieves me."


The Church inculcates on the Clergy perfect gentleness and kindness. This
is why they may never take any part in anything involving bloodshed. His
having shed the blood of a fellow man, even when required by the interests
of justice, is considered a canonical irregularity, and deprives a Priest
of the right to celebrate Holy Mass.

Blessed Francis was remarkable for his gentleness and tender-heartedness
towards all creatures. I will give you a little instance of this.

One day he was at my house, when a nobleman of distinction called upon us.
This gentleman was at the head of a hunting party, and seeing in my orchard
a roebuck which had been given to me and which was peacefully feeding, he
proposed, as he said, to amuse our Blessed Father by setting his dogs upon
the poor animal, and to confine the hunt to my orchard.

The good Bishop's remonstrances were in vain. But though he refused to go
to the orchard, he could not avoid being a witness, however unwillingly, of
what took place, as his room overlooked the ground. Great numbers of people
came to enjoy the spectacle; the horns were blown, the dogs barked, while
the poor roebuck, as if it knew who would fain have been its deliverer,
bounding towards the window near which the Bishop was seated, seemed, like
a suppliant, to be imploring his help.

Blessed Francis drew back, and begged as earnestly that the hunt might be
given up as if he had been asking pardon for a criminal.

He did not see the end, for the animal was at once brought to bay and
despatched. They wanted him to see it when dead, but he did not deign so
much as to look at it, and when the venison was served at table, he most
unwillingly partook of the dish. "Alas," he exclaimed, "what hellish
pleasure! This is just how infuriated demons pursue poor souls by
temptations to sin, so as to precipitate them into the abyss of everlasting
death, yet of that no one thinks."


Blessed Francis was sometimes taxed with over much good nature and
gentleness, and was told that this was the cause of many disorders which
would not have occurred had he been more wholesomely severe. He, however,
answered calmly and sweetly that he had always in his mind the words of
the great St. Anselm, the glory of our Alps, among which he was born.
That Saint, he observed, was in the habit of saying that if he had to be
punished either for being too indulgent or being over-rigorous, he would
far rather it should be for the former. He gave as his reason that judgment
with mercy would be meted out to the merciful, and that God would always
have more pity on the pitiful than on the rigorous. He went on to recall
that most sound maxim: Sovereign right is only sovereign injustice, and
remarked that in Holy Scripture those pastors who were over-severe were
invariably blamed.

Our Saint used always to say that sugar never yet spoilt any sauce, but
that too much salt or vinegar often did.

His speaking of St. Anselm's gentleness reminds me of the story told of the
same Saint by Blessed Francis in his Philothea. "One day," he says, "as he,
St. Anselm, was travelling, a hare, being closely run by the hounds which
pursued it, took refuge between his horse's feet, and the dogs remained
yelping around unable to molest their prey in this its strange sanctuary.
His followers were highly entertained at so novel a spectacle, but Saint
Anselm groaned and wept. 'Even thus,' said he, 'do the enemies of the soul
pursue it and drive it into all manner of sins, until at the last they can
kill and devour it, and whilst the terrified soul seeks for some refuge and
help, its enemies mock and laugh if it finds none.'"[1]

Our Blessed Father, following the example of the holy Archbishop, was
invariably kind and gentle, even with the brute creation. He not only
himself never did them harm, but he prevented, as far as he could, any
being done to them by others, for he believed that those who thus inflict
pain on innocent creatures often, even at the risk of their own lives,
display a cruel and malevolent kind of courage. He went so far as to regard
it as a venial sin to injure creatures for the sole pleasure of harming
them where no advantage of any sort would accrue to ourselves; his reason
being that we in this way deprive them of the joy to be found in mere
existence bestowed upon them by God.

"What, then," he was asked, "do you say to the chase, and to the killing
of animals for the food of man?" "As regards the food of man," he replied,
"the very words you use justify the act, and it is that end which justifies
the chase." From this we may conclude that the mere pleasure of the chase
was not sufficient, in his opinion, to render lawful the indulging in it.

Although he blamed the superstition of the Turks, who think that they
acquire merit in the sight of God by lavishing kindness on senseless
brutes, even the most savage and cruel, such as wolves and lions, still he
used to say that this pity had a good natural source, and that those who
were so compassionate to animals were likely to be no otherwise to men,
nature teaching us not to despise our own flesh. In spite of these
feelings, he was very far from falling into those mistakes which casuists
enumerate as the result of excess in gentleness and kindness.

The various writers of the life of Blessed Francis tell us how it was
commonly remarked that all animals by natural instinct seemed to recognise
his tender, compassionate feelings for them, and that when hunted and
pursued, they at once took refuge with him, witness the pigeons, which at
different times when he was saying the Divine Office, flew for safety and
shelter into his very hands.

[Footnote 1: _Devout Life_. Part II. c. 13.]


Fear is a natural passion, which, like all the others, is in itself neither
bad nor good, but bad when it is excessive and disquieting, good when it
is subordinate to reason. There are some who, because naturally timid and
apprehensive, would never dare to speak in public. Others are so afraid
of thunder and lightning that they faint in a storm. Others are afraid of
noises at night, and have a horror of darkness and solitude. Others, again,
have so great a fear of ghosts and apparitions that they dare not sleep
alone in a room.

I have been told, on good authority, that one of our Bravest and most
distinguished Generals, who went to battle as gaily and confidently as he
would go to a marriage, declared that he could never suffer his valet,
after settling him for the night, to leave his sleeping apartment, it being
quite impossible for him to sleep when left alone at night. Our Blessed
Father writes in the following consoling manner to a pious person who
suffered from the weakness of being afraid of ghosts:

"I am told," he says, "that you are afraid of spirits. The Sovereign Spirit
of our God is everywhere, and without His Will or permission no other
spirit dare stir. Those who fear this Divine Spirit ought not to fear
any other. You are beneath His wings, like a little chicken under those
of its mother; what do you fear? In my youth I, too, was a prey to these
imaginations, and in order to get the better of them I forced myself
when quite a child to go alone into places which my fancy had peopled
with fantastic terrors. I went alone, I say, but my heart was armed with
confidence in God. Now I am grown so strong in this confidence that
darkness and the solitude of the night are delightful to me, since in
solitude I realise better the all-embracing Presence of God. The good
angels are there round about us like a company of soldiers on guard. _The
truth of God_, says the Psalmist, _shall compass thee with a shield; thou
shall not be afraid of the terror of night_.[1]

"This feeling of safety you will acquire little by little, in proportion
as the grace of God grows in you: for grace engenders confidence, and
confidence is never confounded."

See how, with this timid, fearful soul, he makes himself weak and infirm.
If I may be permitted to add to this great example my own poor and
worthless experience, I would say that when I was young I was greatly
afflicted with this weakness. It was indeed, perhaps, the chief impediment
to my entering the Order of St. Bruno, which is, in my opinion, the
holiest, as it certainly is the most retired and the most steadfast of all
the religious orders. I, however, lost this infirmity as soon as I had
received the imposition of hands from the Blessed Francis de Sales, and I
may add that Almighty God permitted me to succeed, in the episcopal chair,
three Saints of that order which I revered so much, namely, Saints Artauld,
Audace, and Anthelme.[2]

[Footnote 1: Psalm xi. 5.]
[Footnote 2: Six Carthusians occupied the See of Belley: Ponce de
Balmay, St. Anthelme, Raynauld, St. Arthaut, Bernard, and Bd. Boniface
of Savoy. (_Tresor de Chronologie, Chez Palme, Paris, 1880_).
Audace, first Bp. of Belley, was not canonised, nor was he a Carthusian.]


I have known great servants of God who would not on any account allow their
portraits to be painted, imagining that their doing so must involve some
degree of vanity and dangerous self-complacency. Our Blessed Father was not
of this opinion, but, making himself all things to all men that he might
win all to Jesus Christ, he made no objection to having his portrait taken
when asked to do so. He gave as his reason that since we are obliged by the
law of holy charity to communicate to our neighbour the representation of
our mind, imparting to him without dissimulation or jealousy what we have
learnt concerning the science of salvation, so we ought to be still less
niggardly in pleasing our friends by placing before their eyes the picture
of our outward self which they so earnestly desire to have.

If we see, not only without annoyance, but even with pleasure, our books,
which are the portraits of our minds, in the hands of our fellow men, why
grudge them the picture of our countenance, if it contribute anything to
their satisfaction. On this subject he expresses himself as follows in one
of his letters: "Here, then, is the picture of the earthly man, for I am
unwilling to refuse you anything which you desire.

"I am told that my portrait has never been really well painted. That, I
think, matters very little, _surely man passeth as an image. Yea, and he is
disquieted in vain._[1]

"I borrowed it in order to send it to you, for I have not myself got my
own portrait. Ah! if the image of my Creator were imprinted in all its
splendour on my soul, how gladly would I let you see it!

  "_O Jesu, tuo lumine, luo redemptos sanguine,
  sana, refove, perfice, tibi conformes, effice. Amen._"

Thus did he turn every subject into an occasion of elevating the soul to

[Footnote 1: Psalm xxxviii. 7]


Since charity was the animating motive of all that our Holy Bishop thought,
said, or did, and since it was in truth his very spirit, we cannot better
close these reminiscences of that saintly spirit than by quoting the words
of the Prince of the Apostles: _Before all things have a constant charity
among yourselves, for charity covers a multitude of sins. Let every one
behave himself according to the dispensation of grace. If any man speak,
let him speak as the words of God. If any man minister, let him do it as
of the power which God administers, that in all things God may be honoured
through Jesus Christ, to whom is glory and empire for ever and ever.

[Footnote 1: 1 Peter iv. 8, 10, 11.]


End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales
by Jean Pierre Camus


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